Hi, I’m Scott Wilson and I’m from Broome, Western Australia and my family stretches across the Kimberley. My mum, who’s from Fitzroy Crossing and she’s a Gooniyandi woman, and my dad, he’s from Kununurra and he’s a Meragunjawon man and currently I’m a family liaison officer.
So growing up I had a chance to travel a lot with my mum as she was going through all of her practicals with her Notre Dame degree as a teacher and that basically opened my mind in terms of looking at our people and understanding kind of like all the issues that we face. The poverty, in our backyard, in a first world country, we have so much poverty just right beside us that it’s hidden almost. But only touched on by the media only a little bit even just to give I guess a brief idea of what Aboriginal people are going through. And so growing up I had that firsthand experience.
I just graduated my undergrad and my Bachelor of Arts majoring in Anthropology and Indigenous History and Heritage at the University of Western Australia.
I actually had the opportunity to do my TE (Tertiary Entrance) or TA (Tertiary Acceptance), the actual examination for me to go to university. However upon completing it, I suffered an injury and that basically cost me actually going straight into university. And so there were bridging courses, orientation courses that allowed Indigenous kids from Perth or all over Western Australia to go to UWA. So while going through that orientation course unfortunately I didn’t have that kind of academic base that I should have had from going to Hale. I should have put, I guess, a lot of time into study and things like that which I have now taken, well I have understood better, I have taken for granted.
The challenges that I faced, which most Indigenous people face, going into that academic stream is basically being out of your comfort zone. You know, travelling all the way from this remote town to the big city, being alone, going into like a little college room and being completely out of the environment that you’ve grown up in. That’s a big thing to face but it’s something that we need to face, we need to overcome and so that challenge was hard for me. But I’m well fortunate enough going to Hale that kind of prepared me for that.
We had the support at the University of Western Australia, the Shenton Indigenous House* actually provided that support for us in terms of having that support base where we had an area, a facility where we could all go. So all Indigenous students from across all Australia that were going to University of Western Australia, had the area where we could come to, grapple, you know, I guess daily routines but actually come back and have that support base by elder Indigenous people that were professors at the university.
What did I imagine university to be like? Well, just like the movies I thought it had the parties. It kind of had the kind of fun and kind of, I guess, you know the toga parties and things like that. Although it does have all those things, we are there to learn, we’re there to study, we’re there to further our education and so when I got there, I had this choice, right. You’re going to have this choice, between the social life and the university life and I guess it goes, it intertwines because you have all those choices to make – whether to go out with your friends or stay home and study for your tutorial in the morning. But as an Indigenous person, there’s two parts of being an Aboriginal student. There is bettering yourself and there’s bettering your community. And that goes intertwined with your university experience and that should be above anything – everything.
Well as Aboriginal people we need to understand that we need to provide the tools for the Western society to learn that they need to adapt as well to us and assimilation is still alive and well.
Although university is helping us, in terms of our academic knowledge, we need to become the professors, we need to become, you know, the CEOs, the Chairs, so that when we’re there, we can implement that integration. Provide that cultural awareness and actually be the ones driving it. And that’s what university is about , it’s getting there first and then once we’re there, you know the world is our oyster. You know, we can do anything but it starts now, it starts with that first choice “oh I don’t want to go to university” – you can’t say that. If you say no now, you’ll be saying no your whole life. You need to say yes, yes to everything. Step out of the comfort zone and break through that shame barrier. Because the shame is always the thing that gets us. Always “Too shame to do this, too shame to talk, I’ll stand back I’m too shame.” We can’t say that, you know, nothing will ever get done if we’re just too shame to do anything and it’s up to us.
*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.
Scott is a family liaison officer from Broome, WA. Growing up, Scott was inspired by his mother’s mature aged studies to pursue higher education. After suffering an injury he participated in a bridging course for a year before transitioning to a Bachelor of Arts (Anthropology). Despite being out of his comfort zone and away from his family, Scott sought the support of his Indigenous education unit to overcome the challenges he faced furthering his education.