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A First Nations student journey to Charles Sturt

A First Nations student journey to Charles Sturt


Billie chased her dreams to study at university, not being certain on much, other than wanting to care for Country through her career. With a little support from Charles Sturt scholarships and the First Nations centre at Port Mac, Billie felt supported throughout her transition to uni and beyond!

Written by Billie O’Bryan

I had a dream even as a young child to go to university.

My mum told me that as a toddler I would walk around the house repeating an ad on TV “university education!”.

I knew what I wanted.

Billie O’Bryan

University was a big step for me.

Neither of my parents had finished high school let alone gone to university.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how I was going to go about it, but I knew I wanted to go to uni.

I come from the small town of Condobolin in Central West New South Wales; population 3,000 with a high Aboriginal population.

Coming from a rural area I knew that I wouldn’t feel seen, heard or supported at a metro university; a regional university was for me.

I applied for a Bachelor of Environmental Science & Management at the Port Macquarie campus through the Charles Sturt Advantage program and received my offer before I sat my HSC.

When I applied, I honestly had no idea if this was what I wanted to do.

I applied for this course because I love being outside; I feel at home in nature, especially on Country. I feel it’s my responsibility to care for Country and I could do that through this degree.

As for why I chose to study at our Port Macquarie campus…. um the beach obviously.

My course was offered at the Albury-Wodonga campus or Port Macquarie. For me it didn’t matter how far from home I was, nowhere was going to be like home.

So decided to try out the beach life.

Port Macquarie was a big change for me. I was moving 9 hours away from home to a completely different environment, knowing next to no one.

I was a little anxious.

Being Aboriginal and from a community with a high Indigenous population, I was nervous to move somewhere where that is not necessarily the case, where I might be different.

I was also moving out of home for the first time. My family helped as much as they could by gifting me second-hand pots and pans and I asked for things like towels and bedsheets for Christmas.

I am very close with my family I knew I was going to miss them, but they have supported me every step of the way.

I worked hard to save up for uni and applied for many scholarships because I didn’t want to be stopped from achieving my dreams due to a financial barrier.

I was lucky enough to be awarded the Birrang Enterprise Development Company Aboriginal Scholarship. To say I’m grateful, is an understatement.

I honestly don’t think I would’ve been able to go to university and achieve what I have so far, if it wasn’t for Birrang.

Settling into uni life was a challenge. I had to really put myself out there to make new friends and I’m grateful to call these people my family now.

Balancing uni with the rest of my life is hard but I’ve always felt supported.

From day one I’ve felt like the First Nations centre on campus is a safe space where I am comfortable and supported by everyone around me. I remember saying to someone “it’s just a place where I can be black”.

Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dreams. Especially if it’s a university education.

Useful Links

To read information about Charles Sturt First Nations Centres click here.

To find out more information about scholarships click here.

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