Twenty Victorian government school students will share in $100,000 to support their education as part of the Marrung Education Scholarship Awards.
The awards recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with high potential to succeed in their chosen career paths. Selection is also based on academic results and involvement with the Koorie community, with recipients decided by a panel comprising representatives from the Department and the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI). Minister for Education James Merlino, together with Geraldine Atkinson, VAEAI President presented recipients with certificates in recognition of their scholarships at a ceremony last Friday.
The $5000 scholarships support students to complete Years 11 and 12.
More than 160 students have shared in over $820,000 worth of scholarships since the program started in 2009. Past recipients have pursued diverse pathways including university, training, being drafted into AFL clubs, and more.
One of the 2017 recipients, Ararat College Year 11 student Jose Johnson, said last week's presentation in front of 80 people including his grandfather and school Koori Student Coordinator was 'unreal'.
'It was a pretty unreal feeling,' said Jose.
'I felt a sense of accomplishment and I was proud and happy to be there with all the other kids.'
'It makes you feel like achieving your dreams is not such an impossible task.'
Jose, of Torres Strait Islander and Maori background, plans to study psychology and history at university, and work as a school teacher or psychiatrist. He used part of the scholarship to pay off a computer he had been leasing.
Jose, one of few people in his family to complete secondary school, said education had always been important to him.
'It just opens up more opportunities,' he said.
Scholarship recipients this year came from 17 different schools and included students who would be the first in their family to complete Year 12.
The recipient's ambitions ranged from studying law, graphic design, youth work, engineering, psychiatry, physiotherapy, teaching and football.
Ararat College Koori Student Coordinator Julie Anderson said the scholarships recognised hard work.
'It's an affirmation process when the kids actually receive the reward,' she said.
'The acknowledgement is the main thing but in the context of our school community, the money also makes a huge difference.'
Ms Anderson said Jose's story had also inspired other students at Ararat College.
The scholarships form part of the Government's Education State plan to close the gap between Koorie and non-Koorie students. The Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026 was launched last year to support improved education outcomes for Koorie Victorians and realise the full benefits of the Education State reforms.
The number of Koorie students completing the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) or VET in Schools Certificate has more than doubled in the past five years – with 570 student completions in 2016 compared to 272 in 2011.
Nominations for the 2018 Marrung Education Scholarships open in term three. For more information regarding Marrung, see: Marrung - Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026