Hi, my name is Merrilee Lands. I’m from Broome Western Australia, I’m a Gooniyandi woman, my people come from the Fitzroy crossing area. My partner/ hubby is Robert Wilson. We have two children, so I’ve got a girl thirty years old and her name is Sharona Wilson and my son is Scott Wilson he’s twenty-two.
Look none of us thought about higher education, I didn’t even think about it. I think higher education, the reason I was able to do it as a mature age student was simply because Notre Dame was here. So once they established the Broome Campus of the University of Notre Dame, that was here, so it was easy access, I could still be home and then I think my kids then seeing that I did that.
And then Sharona always wanted to continue through, that was the idea push throughout her secondary schooling, like go further you know, do your back then TEE subjects, do that and then go into Uni. So that was just a natural step after that go onto University of Notre Dame. So in 2006 she graduated from there with an Arts Degree and a major in Aboriginal studies and minor in business.
And then Scott he did up to year 7 at St Mary’s then we applied for scholarships then he got into Hale school. So he did his 5 years at Hale. It was the best thing we could have ever done to get him away. He was so lucky to get that, like really good school Hale. And from there he went on and did his studies with UWA. He initially did the bridging course and I think that was the best thing he ever did because the Indigenous section* at UWA is fantastic. They give them so much support. Scott initially stayed on the campus and then after finishing that he went straight into his arts degree. It was a real struggle that first year, that’s why I thought it was good that he did the bridging course because it allowed him to stabilize himself and being at home and then straight into boarding school he didn’t have that life skill stuff like doing your own washing, so he was fed, had his washing done, sorted at boarding school. Now uni life was totally another kettle of fish, so that year gave him that time to stabilize, sort himself out. And yeah and he graduated this year with an Arts Degree again majoring Anthropology.
Having the degree I’ve always told the kids is “you don’t have to start at the bottom of the ladder in any job you go for”. But having studied at uni you’ve been exposed to so much information, so much knowledge you’ve gotten, you mix in a circle of other students that are aspiring to make changes in the world and I think being Indigenous you aspire to want to make a difference somewhere for your people.
I think that’s the main thing that drives, that’s driven us and you just want them to think, I don’t want them to be rich or famous or anything, you just want them you know to be, happy, healthy and do what they love doing basically and do what you love doing. But always don’t forget who you are. Always remember your roots, always remember your country, always remember your family. That’s the main thing.
Everyone has potential to achieve what they want to do. So it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a rotten background, if you’ve had tough times, it’s up to you to get that inner strength and go for it because you make life what you want life to be. So you need to go and go for it. There will be barriers but there’s always ways around it. There’s so much support agency’s out there, there’s so many role models out there that, just aspire to them you know, you can aspire to what you want to be. I say don’t walk along with blinkers, have a go. There’ll be people once they see that fire in you to drive and to achieve what you want to do they will back you one hundred percent. They will support you. There is so much support out there and if you stumble, who cares, get up again! We all stumble, we’re not perfect you know, we all battle you know but there’s always a way around things. Don’t give up. That’s the main thing, don’t give up. Be passionate, just do it.
*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.
Merrilee is a mother and Bachelor of Education graduate from Broome, WA. Growing up, no one she knew studied higher education. This all changed when the University of Notre Dame opened a Broome campus – Merrilee could both study and be home for her husband and two children. Merrilee believes having a degree means you do not have to start at the bottom, you are exposed to a lot more information and mingle in social circles with other aspiring students who want to make a difference in the world.