More than just money

20 February 2020

If it wasn't for ANU I wouldn't know how to speak my own language.

About 120 of the University's scholarship holders for 2020 have heard first hand what it's like to be supported financially as they study, at a scholarship reception at the Kambri Cultural Centre during ANU Orientation Week.

The new students are all recipients of a range of national scholarships, which are designed to ease the financial pressure in attending university.

The reception also gave them the perfect opportunity to meet other new students as well as staff from the University's support teams.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Grady Venville, who came from a regional community herself, told the newcomers that scholarships were about more than just money.

"Scholarships open doors. For some of you it may have opened the door to come to ANU, for others it may have helped you develop connections and opportunities for a career beyond university," Professor Venville said.

"Scholarships allow you to become part of a unique group of students, who will hopefully become part of your friendship circle and support network.

"You will need people like you. People who are really dedicated to their studies and have a passion for something in an academic area or a life area."

Astrophysics graduate and Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay man Peter Swanton spoke to the new students about his experience at ANU and how he benefited from receiving two scholarships.

Peter studied a Bachelor of Science, studying physics and specialising in astronomy and astrophysics. He also studied language.

His two scholarships helped him complete his studies - one that assisted with accommodation costs for the entirety of his degree and a computer scholarship.

"I lived at Toad Hall for just over three years," he said. "Without that accommodation scholarship, financially it would have been difficult for me."

"Through that I was then able to just live week by week on my ABSTUDY payments, which meant I didn't have to go out and get a job so I could focus on my studies and because of that I was able to get my grades up to a level that I never expected."

He also received the Elspeth Young Memorial Grant which allowed him to purchase a high quality laptop that he could use to complete his research.

Peter ended up obtaining a 6.3 out of 7 GPA and nothing less than a distinction during his entire degree.

"Coming into this, my third degree, where I'd actually failed out of two degrees previously, is a real testament to the support here at ANU.

"A lot of that also comes down to my experience through the Tjabal Centre and Aunty Anne and a wonderful community that supports Indigenous students like myself."

At the start of his speech, Peter acknowledged the Indigenous elders of the Ngunnawal people in his native tongue, something he learned through the University's Indigenous languages program.

"If it wasn't for ANU I wouldn't know how to speak my own language. It's actually been revived here at ANU and it's something that my Mum was never afforded the opportunity to do."

Fresh out of graduating in December, Peter has joined the Tjabal Centre as a Student Outreach Officer - something he says will help him give back to ANU and the community following on from his success.

"My job will be to basically go out into high schools and inform the current students of my journey and promote the idea of going to university for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students."

Next year, Peter plans to do a Master of Philosophy at ANU.

"Through that I want to do cultural astronomy, so going back and looking at the way that Indigenous people have looked at the sky and the stars for years and how that knowledge intersects with our modern western understanding of astronomy."

Among the new students to hear Peter speak was Seh Meh, who is from Wollongong. Seh received an Australian National Scholarship that provides her $8,000 per annum. She is studying a degree in International Relations and Psychology.

"Receiving that scholarship was one of the main reasons I decided to choose ANU, because I'm a refugee and I'm a single Mum. My Mum values education and so do I and ANU has given me the opportunity to pursue my studies," Sei said.

"I don't know what to do with my career, but it's a great start."

Benjamin Stace, from Cundletown in rural New South Wales, is also one of the 2020 scholarship recipients.

"I received the scholarship because I was a rural student and because of the low social economic area I was in," said Benjamin, who plans to study an Arts degree.

The scholarship will help him to stay on campus at Kinloch Lodge.

"I'm just keen to learn and figure out what I want to do after university," he said.

Amelia Warde, who is from Sydney, also received an Australian National Scholarship which means she'll be able to stay at Burton and Garran Hall during her time at ANU. She plans to study a four year double degree in Arts and Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

"It's a very predominant part of why I came here, because it meant I could come here and move out of home and make it work. This is an amazing university. I've been handed an opportunity and I'm going to take it," Amelia said.

"It also encouraged me to do a double degree because there's more financial freedom and has allowed me to invest more in my education because I have this scholarship."

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