Different pathways, shared goals for new nursing scholars
QUT students Kiara Sutton and Jenny Clough have experienced different journeys to get to university, but both share a common goal – they will use their 2021 Argent Indigenous Nursing Scholarship to further their education and take their nursing skills back to their communities.
The scholarships provide $10,000 support over 12 months to two nursing students each year and were introduced in 2020 thanks to the support of Brisbane education philanthropists Shelley Argent OAM and Don Argent.
Kiara has come to QUT’s School of Nursing straight from Year 12, while Jenny has 20 years’ experience in aged care as an assistant in nursing.
Both also have experience caring for family members.
Kiara is a Mara and Yawuru woman from Groote Eylandt – the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria – but moved to Sydney by herself at just 13 to attend boarding school.
“It was a bit scary moving to Sydney from Groote Eylandt by myself at 13 – my mum was happy for me but also a bit nervous,” she said.
“Mum wanted me to go to boarding school because there was no high school on Groote Eylandt – you either did distance education or went to boarding school. So I spent six years at Kambala and loved every bit of it.”
After graduating last year, Kiara moved to Darwin very briefly to take up a health research traineeship but then decided to apply to QUT in January after reading about the Oodgeroo Unit’s entry program.
“I like Darwin but the city is very much about working so that you can go out every weekend – I have a pretty strong work ethic and decided that lifestyle wasn’t for me … I knew I had bigger goals for my career,” she said.
“But I hope to go back to the Northern Territory after I finish my degree and work in the communities and at home.
“It’s pretty inconsistent when it comes to health care at home because people fly in, fly out – there’s a need for more permanent people who stay.”
Kiara didn’t always plan on a career in nursing – she was interested in becoming a writer or journalist – but she knew she enjoyed helping people.
“My little sister had serious health problems when she was younger, including difficulties with her sight, hearing and speech, and I was really drawn to helping my mum with her,” she said.
“Later, when I was at school in Sydney, I went to an open day at a university and toured the health faculty and it really inspired me.”
Kiara has had a good start to her QUT studies and is enjoying the mix of in-person tutorials and flexible, online lectures – even though it’s a steep learning curve.
“At school I couldn’t wait to be 18 and independent and get a job and go to uni … Now, I’m like: I miss school!” she said.
Jenny Clough’s Argent scholarship has come in her second year at QUT.
She embarked on a Bachelor of Nursing in 2020 at the Kelvin Grove campus after finishing a Diploma of Nursing at TAFE in 2019 – which helped her gain entry to QUT and also gave her a year’s credit toward her degree.
“I’d been an assistant in nursing for 20 years and worked in aged care … I’ve always wanted to go to uni but I never got the opportunity to do it,” she said.
“But I’ve kept plugging away at it and now that opportunity is finally here.
“I’m raising my daughter on my own and have ongoing medical expenses for her. Last year I was trying to study while working almost fulltime, but the scholarship this year will mean I can concentrate more on my studies, put in more time, get better marks, get a better job and have a better future.
“I’m very honoured to be chosen for the scholarship and I want to do well – especially for the people who have donated the money … I want to show them the difference it will make to my life.”
Jenny didn’t get to do her practical placements for her course last year because of COVID-19 restrictions, so this year will be an extra big prac year.
“I’m doing three placements at Greenslopes Private Hospital and they are wonderful because I am able to do it part-time, rather than full-time, which makes life much more manageable with my daughter,” she said.
Jenny also works part-time as a student ambassador for the Oodgeroo Unit (QUT’s support unit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples), which means she gets to talk to school students about going to university.
“I don’t want them to take as long as I’ve taken!” she said.
“I’m enjoying encouraging other students to come to uni. There’s so many different pathways now – people shouldn’t give up their dreams. You can work, or go to TAFE, or do a trade, then get into uni. You’ve just got to keep plugging away.”
Jenny is a proud Wulgurukaba (Magnetic Island) and Yorta Yorta (Shepparton) woman, who was born in Victoria but has lived in Brisbane since she was three.
“After I graduate next year, I want to go back to where I’m from at some stage and do some education with the young Indigenous people, especially around diabetes,” she said.
“It starts really young and a lot of it can be avoided, so I want to help encourage healthier food options rather than takeaway.
“And there are so many other problems … I know one person can’t do a lot, but if everyone does something it can start to make a difference.”
QUT’s School of Nursing was established in 1978 and is the oldest and largest centre for tertiary nursing education in Queensland.
Application details for scholarships for 2022 will be posted on the QUT Scholarships page later this year.
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