Empowering Change: Meet Rebecca Castledine | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Empowering Change: Meet Rebecca Castledine

“I was 40 when I first decided that I needed to make a change to my life, not just for me but also for the people around me, my children especially. But also, I wanted to do something that would enable me to give back to the community and the people around me. I was unsure at the start of my journey on how I would accomplish this but thought enrolling in university would be a good start.

I started my university journey in 2015, when I enrolled in the Tertiary Preparation Pathway course, which is offered at UniSC in Caboolture. The course is a great start to learn how to write assessments, understand the process and really set me up for the success on the horizon that I never in my dreams thought could come to fruition.

I will never forget my first day, I was petrified! Walking into that first class was so intimidating for me, I mean what even is an academic paper? Everyone seemed to know what they were doing; I had never even read an academic paper in my life. Isn't university a place where 'smart' people go? Not a middle-aged Indigenous woman who didn't even complete high school. Little did I know from that very first day back then, how far and how much, I would accomplish. I never expected to be able to exceed all my hopes and dreams for myself. In fact, when I began, I really did not even have any big goals in my mind. That’s the thing with university, you start with one idea and end up being a completing different person by the end of the experience.

I completed the Tertiary Preparation Pathway course with passes, then enrolled into a Bachelor of Criminology and Justice, oh wow! Having people critique work you spent hours on only to barely pass each subject was challenging and at times confronting; developing my self-esteem around the way I understood feedback on my work was a huge part of my personal development, instead of seeing this as a negative I found that feedback was designed to assist in my learning process - I would come to welcome feedback, in fact I would request it.

After the first year I was fortunate enough to have the grades to change my degree to a dual degree of Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Criminology and Justice. I still didn’t know what I was going to do with this qualification, but I did know this - I had to give it my best shot! I didn’t want to have any regrets that I didn’t at least try.

Then began the next 5 years of studying, and I can honestly say these years have been the best years of my life. I found lifelong friendships, I began a journey of self-discovery, learning who I am and what mattered the most to me.

As I reside in Caboolture, I took advantage of connecting with staff and students at the Caboolture campus, the campus has a library, a Buranga Centre and multiple quiet study spaces. I utilised these spaces all the time throughout my whole degree for exams and when I had large workloads. Being part of the Caboolture campus provided an opportunity to meet students that lived in my area but were studying a different discipline to me. I participated in multiple university events and was supported every step of the way by all the staff, who cheered me along. This also assisted in my gaining different perspectives on what could benefit the community, especially the community that I lived in.

For me, pre-university, I was struggling with self-worth, self-respect, and uncertainty around my identity. It might just be a piece of paper for some people, but this whole experience has assisted in shaping the person that I always was, and has allowed me to develop personally and professionally into the person I always wanted to be. The experience has developed my self-worth, self-respect and confidence that I am as capable as anyone else. I still do not consider myself to be what society deems as 'smart', I don't believe university is just for 'smart' people. University is for everyone, from every demographic, it is for people with disabilities, personal challenges, families, it is for the old and the young. It is a place where you have an opportunity to develop skills in the workplace but also to evolve your personality in ways you will never expect.

I now have not one but two degrees, I also have options when it comes to the career paths that I might choose for myself. I am currently working for the Department of Environment and Science in the Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers Program, as a Project Officer. An amazing position which has provided so many more opportunities for personal and professional development. I am also completing further studying, as I discovered that I enjoyed university so much that I want to continue learning.

I will forever be grateful to all the people who contributed to the development of this pathway for me, the staff in the Buranga Centre, the staff in the Law and Criminology school, my peers, all the staff and students from the Caboolture campus and all the people who showed me kindness when I needed it the most”.

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