by Ben Eisikovich 22 April 2014
efore I begin I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and pay my respect to the Elders past and present. I would also like to thank Professor Garrett, Dean of the Australian School of Business for his warm introduction. Could I get a show of hands of all the scholarship recipients in the room tonight? That’s awesome, thanks guys! My question to you is what have you done with the gift of your scholarship you have been given? My donor Mr Robert MapleBrown sadly passed away in the first six months of my university experience. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but he believed in me and since that day I have made the most of the gift given to me: The Maple-Brown Family Charitable Foundation
Scholarship for Indigenous students. I have ensured that I give back to this great university, make the most of the opportunities that come my way and as Robin Williams says in Dead Poets Society “Carpe Diem” which means ‘seize the day’. This scholarship is one of the main reasons I am standing before you all today. I come from a single parent home and growing up on a low wage single income was difficult. So when it came to the time of looking at applying for universities the question really became ‘how are we going to afford this? Is it a matter of me taking up additional employment and working night shifts? Or do I get Mum to help me out by obtaining another job?’ And I really didn’t want to put the additional stress on my Mum as she already works hard enough as it is. So receiving this scholarship was a god send because it relieved us both of the financial burden and stress. Having this piece
Ben Eisikovich with Professor Martin Nakata, Director of Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Unit, UNSW.
of mind has enabled me to not only focus on my studies but also develop in ways that may not have been possible if I didn’t have this scholarship. One of the ways in which this scholarship has assisted my development is through the kick start it has provided to my career. It sets me apart from other students as a unique individual in the application process because I have something different than they do. I have someone, in my case the Maple-Browns, who have found me worthy of investing in. Consequently I have had the opportunity to Intern with Leighton Contractors in their Infrastructure Investment Team. This has been ongoing since my first year at university where I work full time over the holiday periods and 1-2 days a week during semester. This experience has been priceless in not only applying what I learn in my Finance and Accounting majors to the real world, but giving
me the ability to experience what being a professional within the corporate sector is all about. Over my time I have had the pleasure of conducting management accounting, working on financial models and generally assisting my team with bids for Public Private Partnership infrastructure projects. I will give you two examples of projects in which my team has won to emphasise just how large these deals can be. In 2011 my team was selected as preferred bidder on a project over in Adelaide called the New Royal Adelaide hospital which is the largest Greenfield healthcare precinct in the southern hemisphere. This project raised $2.5b debt from a bank syndicate of 28 banks (international and domestic). More recently my team was awarded the PPP tender for a project over in New Zealand called Transmission Gully which is a $1bn road project with construction of the 144km freeway set to begin this year. Another way in which the scholarship has assisted me is the opportunity to build my social network. Being a scholarship holder reaffirms and builds confidence in your own ability as it provides a greater appreciation and belief for the skills and experiences you possess. This is because you have successfully beaten other candidates in being selected as a recipient for a scholarship and therefore you have what it takes to be the best and excel. There is also confidence in the fact you are not alone on your university journey and you have an array of people to turn to for guidance. This includes your donors, ASB Scholarships support staff; UNSW Scholarships support staff and more importantly other scholarship recipients. You really don’t realise how crucial other recipients can be as you transition through the years at uni. Some of my good friends today were those that I met at the first year scholarship barbeque held
early semester one every year. Not all of them are within the business faculty, so to have friends from faculties other than your own within the first couple of weeks at university is a privilege which people without scholarships don’t have. Over my time at university I have had the opportunity to get involved with all the things that make attending this university the best and most enjoyable. This includes UNSW initiatives such as attending seminars and networking events hosted by Careers and Employment or academic workshops held by the Learning Centre. I have also been involved in a number of clubs and societies but just to name two; there is the Durak society, a Russian card game society that allows you to unwind and relax with other students over a game of cards and of course, being part of the ASB you are involved with BSOC our student business society. I have also had the opportunity to get involved with sports and recreational through the UNSW Boxing and Muay Thai, which I assure you is just for fitness purposes! However, the initiatives and programs that are closest to my heart and which I enjoy the most are those that come out of my Indigenous unit: Nura Gili. The first program is Winter School. This is a one week residential program for current Indigenous high school students that is held between semester one and semester two every year. It allows participants to experience what being a student at university is like and allows them to learn more about a chosen area of study that they choose. It has been an absolute pleasure being involved with co-facilitating lectures and mentoring such a bright and intelligent bunch of students that will be coming through the tertiary system and corporate sector over the coming years. It is quite exciting for me to witness this change happening before me!
Another program that I thoroughly enjoy is the UNSW Indigenous Pre Programs. This is a four week intensive program for recently graduated year 12 Indigenous students + seeking pathways into university. I recently had the opportunity to tutor seven students on the program in all the first year commerce subjects, everything from the quantitative subjects such as statistics, accounting and finance to the qualitative subjects of management and marketing. Most of the activities and initiatives that I have been involved with mainly occur outside of class hours and require preparation. If I didn’t have the scholarship I know I would not be able to get as involved as much as I have because I would have to be going to work. I know this is true because I have talked to a lot of students who do not have a scholarship and they all tell me they wish they had the opportunity to stay back for these events. Having a scholarship and talking with others who have a scholarship has illustrated just how life changing an event can be for individuals and the impacts that this has on them and their families. It has inspired to give back and assist Indigenous business students because I could not imagine a better feeling than knowing I have not only changed a person’s life but the generations that follow them. I would just like to thank from the bottom of my heart Mrs Sue MapleBrown and the whole Maple-Brown family for the continued belief and support that they have provided me with from day one. I look forward to sharing all my continued successes this year with you. On this note I would like to thank you all for your attention and look forward to talking with you later tonight. Thank you. This article was first published in Nura Gili News, Edition 11: March 2014