“Be Brave. Make Change.”
That is the theme of this year’s National Reconciliation Week – a time to celebrate our First Nations people and to explore how we can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
For University of Southern Queensland student Caitlin Robinson-Cleary, it is also a time for reflection.
A proud Wakka Wakka woman from Cherbourg, Caitlin grew up in the care of her grandparents.
While other children were busy playing with dolls, Caitlin was helping raise her seven siblings.
“My grandparents are rock stars,” Caitlin said.
“Not only did they care for their own children and grandchildren, but they had foster kids, too.”
“I was always helping them out wherever I could and learning from their example.”
From applying Band-Aids to removing splinters, Caitlin’s desire to care for others eventually morphed into dreams of working as a nurse.
Now, aged 22, this is fast becoming a reality for Caitlin who is studying a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Southern Queensland.
“It was the bravest thing I have ever done,” Caitlin said.
“No one in my family has ever taken these steps before – I’m the first one to go to university so I had no one to look up to for guidance.”
Caitlin left high school without the necessary entry requirements to study Nursing.
Undeterred, she completed an Indigenous Higher Education Pathways Program before enrolling in a Bachelor degree.
“My advice is just to go for it,” Caitlin said.
“Everything may look scary and intimidating, but you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t go for it.”
“Believe in yourself and who you are – take that step towards your dreams and goals.”
Professor Tony Dreise, who heads First Nations Education and Research at the University of Southern Queensland, said bravery and change were at the heart of this year’s National Reconciliation Week.
“If you want to help change the world, it starts with changing yourself,” Professor Dreise said.
“Ask yourself, ‘What makes me curious?’”
“Whether it’s nursing or aviation or education, we need more First Nations people at our universities because getting a higher education is a sure way of bringing about positive change.”