Ground breaking graduate reaches for the stars
Karlie Noon, a Kamilaroi woman from Tamworth, graduated with a double degree in science and mathematics in September from the University of Newcastle.
Her graduation made history, with Karlie becoming the first Indigenous Australian to graduate from the combined science and mathematics course in New South Wales.
Despite now being a trailblazer in her field of study, school wasn’t always easy for Karlie until she found an inspiring Indigenous mentor.
“I didn’t like school very much and missed most of primary school and a bit of high school. A lovely Indigenous elder would tutor me once a week in maths. She was the only person I knew who had gone to university, and maths was the only thing I was really good at in terms of school, so I decided to finish high school and just wanted to keep studying afterwards,” Karlie said.
Karlie switched from an Arts degree early on in her university career and found herself moving into a first year maths degree, which had its own hurdles to overcome.
“It was really challenging coming into a first year maths degree with no background but I was so determined to do it. The Wollotuka Institute [University of Newcastle’s Indigenous Learning Centre] really were my support network here for anything I needed, and the Faculty of Science and Information Technology also supported me so much, not just in getting good grades, but also holding high expectations for me. That has really pushed me towards doing something that I want to do,” she said.
Karlie has her sights set on completing a PhD in physics and is currently working with the CSIRO on Indigenous education programmes.
Her achievements have also had a big impact on her own community, inspiring others to embark on a university education.
“It’s hard to describe the impact finishing university has had back home. It has helped shift perceptions and raised the expectations for the people around me. My sister has since enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing at UON after entering through the Indigenous enabling program Yapug and my cousin is also talking to me about going to university and studying science,” she explained.
The University of Newcastle is committed to Indigenous education and this year reached a milestone of 1000 Indigenous enrolments, making up 3.5% of the University’s population and the largest number of Indigenous students at any Australian university.
Recently the university appointed Professor Steve Larkin as its inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Education and Research.
"The groundbreaking achievements of Karlie Noon attest to the rewards gained from not only dedication, commitment and hard work, but the power of aspiration and having an innate passion for learning. We at the Wollotuka Institute were only too happy to support her and are very proud of what she has managed to achieve", noted Professor Larkin.