Take a step and make a difference
Education is undeniably one of the most important opportunities afforded to us.
Drama was the only subject I could connect with in high school. Well, that and English. And both gave me great satisfaction and enjoyment. The more I performed, the more I began to fall in love with performing. A teacher gave me a booklet that outlined all the university courses that focused on a degree in the performing arts.
As soon as that information fell into my lap I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted acting to be my career, my lifelong job and I knew that study would help me understand it as a craft and a discipline and not just some unreachable dream. Tertiary education was always a path I wanted to pursue, as I’ve always loved learning and I love the discipline of study. The combination of acting and a university degree seemed like a perfect match.
My home is Mount Isa in Queensland and I wanted to go to a university that wasn’t a million miles from home. At the end of my high school year, 1989, I auditioned at James Cook University in Townsville, Darling Downs in Toowoomba (now University of Southern Queensland) and Queensland University of Technology Academy of the Arts in Brisbane. I was accepted into all three and chose Brisbane as my place of study. I’m not sure why, as it was the furthermost city from my family. I think it was because the Kelvin Grove Campus impressed me the most. I’d never lived in a big city before and Brisbane seemed like New York to me. I wanted to breathe an entirely different life.
I was seventeen when I started university. The first year was overwhelming. I almost dropped out because I couldn’t cope with being away from my family. The big city was way too big for me, and I felt incredibly dumb. The trip back home by Greyhound Bus took 26 hours. Do that a few times a year and it’s an easy thought to just say bugger it, I’ll stay home this time. It took a lot of faith, a few sacrifices and the help of a lot of good people around me to continue. The Indigenous Unit on campus was my salvation. I had tutors who not only understood the demands of study, but also the importance of family. There were a lot of other Indigenous students who, like me, were away from home. We all formed relationships that were nurturing and inspiring and some of those students were to remain my closest friends for many years. These relationships were crucial to my staying at university.
By second year I had found my confidence. My determination to succeed in my studies was unshakeable. I was learning my craft and was surrounded by others who were as inspired by the arts as I was. The discipline of class was incredible and it was a privilege to learn every aspect of Theatre – from sound design and directing plays, to performing everything from Shakespeare to contemporary dramas.
Study gave me a holistic approach to the industry and the knowledge and skills gained from my training is what I continually draw on. Not only that, the experience of study has allowed me to appreciate the contribution that the arts can make within our communities. It has enriched my life.
I received my Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in performing arts in 1992. Since then I have been privileged to have worked in film, television and theatre, with some of the best in the industry. My learning continues but after all this time, I really do believe that I would not be where I am today without the skills gained from my university days.
I contemplate the idea of further study within my field because I realise that any chance to broaden my skills can only enhance my work opportunities. The more we learn, the more we can put ourselves in a position to choose and to contribute in a way that is meaningful. That has certainly been my experience.
This Guide is an incredible resource for any Indigenous person considering undergraduate study. As you will read in Paul Gray, Christian Thompson and Rebecca Richard’s stories in the next few pages, the sky really is the limit. Please read and be inspired by the opportunities that are there for us. Take advantage of them. Be in a position to learn from the best in the world, at the most prestigious universities in the world. And then take yourself a step further towards a wonderfully rich and engaging world where you can make a difference.