My name is Jared and I’m this year’s Charlie Perkins Scholar, which means I am very soon off to Oxford to do my DPhil in Mathematics and Biology. I grew up in the Blue Mountains which is about two hours west of Sydney in quite a big family, I’m the youngest of four.
I didn’t have too many challenges growing up but the Blue Mountains is a very ‘white’ place and you knwo I was the only dark skinned kid in the entire year and that sort of thing. So there was always that issue of you know being a little different but not too many challenges. Though there was one in particular where I actually wasn’t that interested in maths to begin with and then at the end of year ten, well towards the end of year ten, I had the option of moving up into the advanced maths class and my then maths teacher said that you know I would struggle, I wasn’t clever enough, the same sort of rubbish that every Indigenous student really hears, ‘you’re good at sport, you’re good at those sort of things but you’re not very academic’, and so I decided to not move up. That was a challenge but then I also had another teacher who again, thought I was completely stupid for not moving up and so there were challenges but there were also people that were hugely supportive.
I was inspired by a couple of things to go to uni. First of all my mum went to uni as a mature aged student to become a teacher so that you know sort of set the standard. But then also as I said before, I went to quite a ‘white’ school and all of my friends came from families where going to university was just what you did, so in some sense I don’t know, I was infected with that mentality in the best possible sense.
I think the biggest challenge for me wasn’t so much getting into the university but somehow finding a way to fund myself to move to the university but I was really, really lucky enough at USyd to get a scholarship to live on campus. So yeah that was a huge challenge but yeah I was really lucky. I imaged university lifestyle to be a lot of fun, which it was but it was a lot more work than I expected. I slaved doing the HSC and then I got to university and then it was somehow harder but anything that is worth doing, is hard.
The Indigenous Support Unit* really helped me in my first year in particular because I found the workload going from high school to university quite a big jump and so I had tutoring in the first year, which was a great help but they also introduced me to what is known as the Aurora Study Tour, which is related to the Charlie Perkins Scholarship, which I’m going to Oxford on, and you go to a whole bunch of amazing institutions in the States and in the UK like Oxford and Cambridge, and Harvard and Stanford and all of these amazing places to see if you do get in over there, if you really could see yourself living there and moving to the other side of the world and this sort of thing. They really helped with that because otherwise I wouldn’t have known anything about it.
My family were understandably super proud when I started my undergrad and now also super proud that I’m going overseas to do my postgrad. My dad worries that I will never stop studying, never get a job but that’s not true. Super proud but a little bit sad that I’m going to the other side of the world but I do want to stay in academia because it’s quite a comfortable life and it’s an interesting life and I’m not yet bored with it.
The best advice I could give, not just to any Indigenous young person but any young person, is to recognise that you are your best investment and a tertiary education is one of the best ways you can invest in yourself. Not only is it you know great for your financial future but also you meet so many new people that you otherwise wouldn’t meet, like you do things you otherwise wouldn’t do, you see places you wouldn’t see, it’s just I think you would be silly not to, to be honest.
*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.
Jared is a mathematics graduate from the Blue Mountains, NSW. After completing a Bachelor of Science in Advanced and Applied Mathematics, Jared has been awarded The Charlie Perkins Scholarship to study a Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematical Biology at Oxford University. Jared says he was brought up with the mindset that tertiary education was expected after high school. One of his biggest challenges was the workload jump from school to university but he overcame this with the help of his Indigenous Education Unit.