Western Australian-born Natasha Hawkins recalls her delight at graduating in 2011 with a USC arts degree majoring in sociology. “I was a young mum who didn’t graduate high school, so I had to overcome barriers. But I had a goal. I was passionate about sociology. I enrolled at USC as a mature-age student through Indigenous pathways (now called the Indigenous Direct Entry Scheme, for people without Year 12 completion scores).
“I had a young son and lived on a USC bus route; it had a great reputation for having the highest qualified teaching staff; it was affordable and didn’t feel so daunting. I got a cadetship and worked for a local business consultancy, the council, a community health organisation and even at USC part-time. I also sat on committees at USC. It’s definitely helped my career on several levels, having the knowledge and capacity to do things and using the practical components of managing time, delegating tasks and networking.
“The Buranga Centre was awesome. It has these shields with the names of everyone who graduates and you want to be on that shield. I think everyone’s culture and socioeconomic status affect how they view themselves but success depends on the versatility and strength of the individual, as well as their support systems. My message is: Just commit to a path and do whatever you can to get there.”