My name is Barbie-Lee Kirby and I study a Bachelor of Business with majors in Accounting and Business Law. I’m from Brewarrina, a small community in North-West New South Wales. My twin brother and I are the youngest of six children. When we started year ten there were thirty of us in our class but by the time we finished year twelve there were six and three of us went on to study at university.
My twin brother and I were very fortunate enough to have parents who valued education, because they didn’t have the opportunity to finish school. My eldest sister, who is fourteen years older than me, she went on to study a Bachelor of Education, so by the time my brother and I did reach year twelve, there was already this family expectation to go on to study higher education.
We had a careers advisor, however university wasn’t an option for us. He took us on an excursion where he took us to the sheering shed in Dubbo, the TAFE, and the beauty school that they have there. The discussion of university only came about when the science teacher, who recently passed away, she bought out the UAC books and said, ‘Have a look, see what you’re interested in and let me know and we’ll contact a few people’, and I ended up contacting Jumbunna and it was the only university I filled out for and I got in.
One of the biggest challenges that I faced leaving home was the stigma that came with being a young, Indigenous woman from a rural community. I got the ‘Who do you think you are? Do you think you’re better than us?’. That stigma of not being able to dream bigger than the community itself.
The reality is, is that I am a product of my community. I am a strong, young Indigenous woman capable of overcoming limitations. What I didn’t realise is that whatever I do in life, when I finish my degree, get a job, that not only benefits me and my family but that also benefits everyone back home in my community.
I chose to study business purely because I have aspirations of being a businesswoman. I want to understand the complexities of the corporate world and ensure that Indigenous people have a place within it.
I do use the Indigenous Support Unit* here at UTS. I not only use it for academic support but I also use it to meet people, to meet other Indigenous people, some who also come from remote communities. They have a really good way of creating a sense of community and essentially a sense of belonging, so you really do feel at home when you’re there.
When I was in my second year of university I was introduced to a program called Career Trackers. They provide Indigenous university students with internships that are relevant to your studies. They teamed me up with Qantas, so I interned in the Finance of Engineering department there. I must say since joining the program it’s really been a turning point in my, not only professional journey but also my personal journey because much like the support unit*, you do get to meet other likeminded Indigenous people within the program.
I want other Indigenous people to know that there are no limits to what we can do as people. Education is not a new thing for us. We’ve been educating our young people, educating each other for over the past 60,000 years, we’re just doing it a new way.
*Note: each university may refer to their local Indigenous support services in different ways e.g. Indigenous Education Units; Indigenous Support Units; School of Indigenous Australian Studies; Indigenous Institute etc., and may include Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander language in the naming title, as relevant to the local area.
Barbie-Lee is a student from Brewarrina, NSW and is currently studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in Accounting and Business Law. Coming from a small country town, Barbie-Lee had to shake off the stigma of dreaming of a bright future within the corporate world. With the support of her family and her Indigenous Education Unit, Barbie-Lee has been able to pursue her goals of becoming a successful businesswoman. She believes that finding likeminded Indigenous people is both a professional and personal motivator for success.