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From remote Winton to UNSW to Hollywood?

by Scott Parlett 11 April 2014

I

was born and raised in a small country town in North Western Queensland called Winton, the official home of QANTAS and Waltzing Matilda with a population of less than 1000. Growing up in the country was great fun, however when it came to furthering your education it was very difficult, especially when I always wanted to go to University. In the 2003, I was introduced to the opportunities of tertiary education. I attended an Engineering camp TELG in Rockhampton at CQU Central Queensland University. From here on I really wanted to study

at University but I didn’t know in which program. In the summer of 2004, I was first introduced to UNSW and Nura Gili. I was selected to attend the IAESS- Indigenous Australian Engineering Summer School and I met Donna Bailey from the Engineering Faculty. During this program I was really fascinated with Bio-Medical and Mechatronics Engineering. I’ve always wanted to help those in need and I thought by studying these two disciplines I would be able to create artificial organs and prosthetic limbs to help others. However, I still had this love for animation and film. During IAESS I met Jilda Simpson and Sue Green from Nura Gili. I spent a lot of time during the program talking

to Jilda and Sue about my love for animation and film and they recommended I apply to UNSW Indigenous Winter School and keep my options open. In July 2004 I was back in Sydney at Winter School doing Visual Arts. During years ten and eleven, I was enrolled in three different schools: Winton State School, Brisbane School of Distance Education and Virtual Schooling coordinated by a School in Brisbane. When it came submitting my assessments and school work I continuously sent the work to the wrong school. At the conclusion of year eleven I had a really difficult decision to make, continue onto year twelve with average marks or repeat year eleven. In the end I knew the only option was to repeat

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year eleven. Mid-way through, I was still struggling with having to submit work to three schools, I had complications with medical conditions and I really struggled with the continuous bullying at school. I then made the hardest decision of my life: to leave my family home alone and move to Hervey Bay to further my education. In 2005, I was selected to attend the Indigenous Engineering Summer School and Winter School at UNSW. From being given the opportunity to attend these programs for a second time, I knew my dream to further my education could hopefully come true. The only university I wanted to attend was UNSW, as the support for Indigenous Australians is incredible. The people within UNSW and Nura Gili went out of their way to ensure I was always looked after and I continued to keep in contact with Nura Gili when I was back in Qld. When I returned to Hervey Bay after Winter School, my life was flipped upside down; I was forced out of my accommodation with my sister. Eventually I moved into Youth Centre. I really struggled with keeping up with school work and I struggled with family relationships and my medical conditions. Throughout this time, I continued my dream to go and study at UNSW. Around Christmas of 2005, I was planning to go to Tafe to repeat my Senior Certificate so I could go to UNSW. I then received a phone call from Sue Green at Nura Gili about an alternative entry to UNSW. I was really excited about being given the opportunity to even be considered. I came down to Sydney for an interview with the Engineering Faculty at UNSW and I was successfully accepted into Engineering. Nura Gili helped find accommodation for me to live at New College. When I first moved to Sydney

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in February 2006, I learnt very quickly the difference between the country and the city: In the country when you walk pass someone in the street it’s a sign of respect to say g’day and give a wave. In reality, it’s probably the only person you’ve passed for the last half hour and you are probably thinking wow a friend! In the city everyone’s in a rush to get to their next meeting, class or work and they don’t even look at you; it’s as if they have tunnel vision. So on my first day of university I was all excited about my first class ENG 1000 in the Clancy auditorium and meeting new people. I was walking down the uni walk, all cheerful, with my true Bogan accent, saying g’day and waving to every single person I walked past. I pretty much felt like the Crocodile Dundee in New York. It was pretty embarrassing when I rocked up late to class, walked through the wrong door and ended up on stage! I really struggled with the sudden change from the High School to University; the curriculum in Queensland schools was very different to New South Wales. I spent 30 hours a week with both ITAS and New College tutors doing Algebra and Calculus. Half way through my first year I had a meeting with the Engineering Faculty about my results. I sat down with Sue Green and had a hard think about whether Engineering was the right career choice. I realised I was great with the designing aspects of Engineering but I was absolutely terrible with the theory. I then made the dramatic change from Engineering to Digital Media at COFA and have never looked back. Digital Media gave a new opportunity for me to give back and to help others in an unique way. COFA is unique in many ways, the diversity of cultures and appearances. I went to my first class in rugby shorts and a QLD

jersey, I felt so out of place but I was welcomed because of my passion for sports. The lecturers and tutors have all worked within the industries so as a student you gain first hand information on what to expect. This is really special, especially when you know they want to see you succeed. Studying at University is completely different to school, I had to motivate myself to attend class and finish assessments on time. Lecturers and Tutors don’t harass you for your assessments as teachers do, if you’re late, you’re marked down and this was a wakeup call for me. The late night cram sessions, at the time they were a challenge but now I think of them as a highlight as it revealed the importance of organisation and time management – an area I’m still working on! I’m now in my final year of my Masters of Digital Media and spend much time in front of the computer editing video and sound. My goal within Digital Media is to gain as much knowledge from the film industry, create my own company and help others to succeed, through providing opportunities in the industry. My dream job is to start my own production company and work with Indigenous communities to create their own film stories and teach them about the industry. I hope to move to the USA and gain a more understanding of the industry and the workings of Hollywood blockbusters. I’ve always wanted to be a Cinematographer which is a Director of Photography. Who knows I might even stay on and work for Nura Gili to support our next generation. I also plan to do a PhD in Digital Media in relations to Indigenous Australians. College life was one of the greatest things I have ever done. Living on campus and being involved with the university is incredible: the competitive sports between colleges, the rivalry, the


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pride and passion for your college are all highlights. The friends you make, the hours I spent in the dining room at lunch or in the common room talking to people and getting to know them is memorable. I’ve always been strong about giving back to the community, to support future generations, to encourage others to achieve their dreams no matter how big or small. From 2006 to the present I have been a Winter School supervisor. Since 2010 I have also supervised pre-programs. Since 2004 I’ve always volunteered my first week of holidays to go and support the Engineering Link Group as they were the first organisation to really help me to move forward to further my education. I’ve also been to England and China helping students to further their educations in the field of their choice. I’m most proud of seeing students that I’ve looked after at Winter School, Pre-Programs and other programs I’ve been involved with coming to various universities and succeeding with their own education and career paths. There are many role models in my life, I see everyone as unique and so many have influenced me through their own dreams. The greatest role model in my life is my Mum. She always pushed me to continue when I wanted to give up. There are three others who have really supported me through my education and they probably don’t even know: Sue Green, she has always welcomed me into her home and supported me through the tough and good times; an inspirational person. I would not have been at UNSW and Nura Gili if it wasn’t for Sue. Paul Richards opened my eyes up to the opportunities of further education in particular engineering. He is always there as a role model and sharing a good joke. I’ve travelled to England and China with him and his knowledge of the world

is incredible. Jared Pritchard was a close friend of mine at New College and before he passed away, he always supported me with my university studies. He was a great role model to those with a disability. He was paralysed and wheelchair bound after suffering two strokes. I think his will to walk and to be able to work in the music industry was one of the greatest eye openers: to never give up on your hopes and dreams. As well as studying, this year I am working part-time with Nura Gili as an additional student support officer. I coordinated Ngurra for the commencing Indigenous students to UNSW and I am currently tutoring students in ATSI subjects. For all our students my top tips are: • Never give up on your dreams, no matter what life throws at you. Always remember that there is someone out their willing to help you. • Never be afraid of making a mistake, everyone does, learn from it. Greatness can come from that mistake. • Network: Get involved in everything, meet new people

as one day you may develop a company with that person. • Be active within your own community. • Remember where you come from and who you are. To me Nura Gili is the heart and soul of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people coming together to support each other to achieve great potential in tertiary education and beyond. With great support for all our Indigenous students studying at UNSW, Nura Gili is home away from home. Nura Gili staff all go beyond their roles to ensure the students are well cared for, supported with both their studies and pastoral care. Nura Gili staff are always there to sit down and to talk to you about absolutely anything, and you know it is always confidential and no one will ever judge you. Joining the team at the beginning of this year is my way of giving back to Nura Gili all the support I was given whilst I was coming through my education. Nura Gili is a massive family with laughs and giggles along the way everyone supporting each other. This article was first published in Nura Gili News Edition 11 March 2014.

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From remote winton to unsw to hollywood?