Why did you go to boarding school on an AIEF (Australian Indigenous Education Foundation) Scholarship?

The journey from home to boarding school was not an easy one. I started in Year seven when I was 12 years old. My parents had decided to send me because they wanted me to have more opportunities than I could have at home in Broome.

Although there were many ups and downs, my AIEF Scholarship not only gave me the chance to attend an amazing school, but also to be a part of a different community, experience new adventures and meet new people.

My boarding school experience played a big part in shaping me into who I am today. When I first started, I was extremely shy, but going through boarding school taught me how to step out of my comfort zone and allowed me to become more confident in who I am.

What did it feel like to finish Year 12?

Finishing Year 12 was bittersweet as I was extremely excited to graduate and start a new life, but at the same time it was sad to leave behind the family and community I had spent six years of my life living and growing with.

Reflecting on my achievements and growth over my years at school around graduation was a surreal feeling, as I had come to be more grateful for the chance of getting the education that I did.

I am currently completing a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney and am loving it. It has made me realise that it is definitely something I am passionate about and want to work hard at. The shift from school to university was challenging at first, as expected! However, after getting used to everything I am feeling confident in what I am doing. Eventually, I am hoping to go back to my community in the Kimberley and work in health care there.

Why do you think people should support AIEF?

People should support AIEF because it is an amazing organisation that gives the best opportunity to Indigenous youth. Education is important and it can be hard for those who want to access it, but AIEF opens that door, allowing individuals to thrive and succeed.

Do you have a message for other young Indigenous people?

Stand up for what you believe in and strive to be the best person that you can be. Never forget the amazing things that we have to offer as strong Indigenous people.

About the AIEF program

The AIEF’s mission is to empower young Indigenous people to build a brighter future for themselves and for the nation. It provides scholarship funding for Indigenous students to complete Year 12 or tertiary studies and career support to help them transition successfully to employment.

Maria is one of 77 students who completed Year 12 in 2020 on an AIEF Scholarship and features in the AIEF 2020 Annual Report, released in May. Despite the impact of the pandemic on their schools, families and local communities, the 386 students supported by AIEF in 2020 achieved an annual retention and Year 12 completion rate of 96% – the highest rate in the past 11 years.


Photo credit: Adam Yip, The Australian

Back to blog