Growing up in her community in Tasmania, Brontë Charles witnessed enormous inequity between the haves and have-nots, between men and women.
"There was no place for me, an ambitious gay woman to live authentically and to excel," said Brontë.
Studying at The Australian National University (ANU) has helped her develop herself without having to hide her sexuality or values. Brontë is studying Political Science and International Relations and is the inaugural recipient of the Frances Cassidy Scholarship, the first philanthropically funded LGBTQI+ student scholarship at ANU.
"I came to study my subjects at ANU with the idea that, if I understood the systems and structures that empower some and denigrate others, I could find ways to dismantle those systems, or pull up as many women, people of colour, LGBTQI+ people and people with disabilities to share in the privileges implicit to some in Australia," said Brontë.
She feels there is nothing so satisfying as developing her thoughts with other people in a university environment.
"This is the way that the financial scholarship has most assisted me, as I have been able to live in student accommodation surrounded by people my own age sharing a common goal - to learn concepts, ways of thinking and experiences. I feel as though I am getting a full university experience living on campus, which I would have missed out on if I had remained in Tasmania.
"Having just completed my first year of tertiary education, I am happy and proud of my results, having moved away from family, learnt to navigate a new city, made new connections, been self-reliant, and adopted new skills and ways of managing during a very stressful time."
The scholarship was established by Frances Cassidy (BA '81) to provide support for a LGBTQI+ student, with preferences for a student who identifies as a woman.
“I am personally aware of the difficulties LGBTQI+ people face in general, but particularly in smaller, more provincial towns both in Australia and in the US, and in the world generally,” said Frances.
“Education and careers help them to firstly move to more tolerant parts of their own and other countries, and to become financially independent from those who would oppose and not support their lifestyles. My personal life story can attest to that.”
Frances credits her ANU education and related work experience for helping her broaden her own career path and eventually work and reside in New York city. The scholarship is her way of making a similar impact on the lives of the recipients.
Brontë feels grateful for the life-changing support she has received from the Frances Cassidy Scholarship.
“It motivates me to fully embrace all facets of university life,” said Brontë.