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Scholarship legacy in honour of Elders set to change lives of First Nations law students

[by Sala Mkoka]



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Professor Kevin Williams and parents George and Maureen Williams.

Image: supplied

A new scholarship fund has been established for regional First Nations law students studying at CQUniversity, endowed by academic trailblazer, CQU alumnus and Gunggari and Wakka Wakka man Professor Kevin Williams.

The objective is to award the inaugural scholarship in 2024, with plans to build over time an endowed fund enabling the awarding in perpetuity of a $5,000 annual scholarship.

Through the scholarship he hopes to encourage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional or remote Queensland studying Laws at CQUniversity.

Professor Kevin Williams decided to establish the scholarship to honour his parents’ memory and their commitment to ensuring their children had access to a quality education.

He said that the CQUniCares Maureen and George Williams Law Scholarship will continue the legacy of his parents in championing the success of First Nations people, encouraging and instilling the importance of obtaining transformative education.

“The world was a very different place in the ‘50s and ‘60s – Aboriginal people didn’t get an education and my teachers and classmates certainly didn’t treat me seriously, even though I was achieving top results in my classes,” Mr Williams said.

“If it weren’t for my parents who worked so hard for us and encouraged us so strongly to get an education, I can’t imagine that I’d have lived the life that I have – it always comes back to Mum and Dad.”

Now an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and previously holding prestigious roles in human rights advocacy, university ethics committees and government advisory boards, and as a board member of the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Kevin Williams said growing up in 1950s Australia as an Aboriginal boy there was no expectation from others for him to succeed.

Through the voice of his parents and encouragement from others who came alongside him in life, Professor Williams received a scholarship which enabled him to undertake tertiary education, becoming the first male Indigenous graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from CQUniversity (known as the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education at the time), going on to study a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at the University of New South Wales before obtaining his Master of Laws (LLM) from Southern Cross University through the Lionel Murphy Scholarship, preceding a fulfilling career in academia at various universities.

Professor Williams’ parents met on Alroy Station in western Queensland in 1949 where his father George Williams, a Gunggari man was working as a stockman and his mother Maureen Stanley worked as a domestic servant.

Working hard to provide for their children, Maureen and George were provided the opportunity by Director of Primaries Gordon Reid, to move into a house in Longreach to work with the Council, leaving behind their tough life in the bush and living in tents.

Being closer to town and schools allowed them to be better able to provide their children with the opportunity to receive their education. Mr Reid contributed to the family’s education costs, enabling Kevin’s sister Patricia Lieschke to attend boarding school.

“My parents were thrilled that we achieved a year 12 education, as that was something they never had access to,” Professor Williams said.

“They knew that when I got my education, that it wouldn’t just be for me and bettering my life, but that it would also be for the benefit of others and that I’d be able to use my education to help other Indigenous people realise their dreams, and make culturally-safe places for our people to succeed.

“I set up this scholarship in honour of the two most decent, hardworking, thoughtful people who endured much hardship in their life to give their children an opportunity they never had.

“I am eternally grateful to my parents,” he said.

Professor Williams is also hoping other people within the community will appreciate the history of this scholarship and the importance of providing opportunities for young First Nations students by also contributing financially to the future of the scholarship.

“With this legacy we’re really hoping people will get behind this cause to make donations into the fund, and I hope it can help to change the lives of other Indigenous students studying law at CQUniversity.”

Kevin’s sister Patricia also reflected on the profound impact of her parents in her own strong work ethic and resilience in persevering through challenges, having worked her way up to a senior management position during her dedicated career with CQUniversity and receiving a Graduate Diploma in Careers Education from RMIT, Melbourne.

“It was hard work while I was also bringing up my daughters, but they also understood the vision of my parents and have both studied and now also have great careers,” Mrs Lieschke said.

“Now as a proud grandmother to six grandchildren with four having achieved degrees and diplomas – it’s just such a legacy for my parents with the path they paved for us and generations to come.

“I hope that this scholarship in honour of my parents will help First Nations students to understand that it is possible to achieve whatever you want if you work hard for it, and that there are people out there willing to provide support and assistance to help you get to where you want to go and be what you want to be.”

The CQUniCares Maureen and George Williams Law Scholarship will contribute to increasing First Nations peoples’ participation, voice, and influence in the legal sector. It is anticipated that future scholars will become lawyers, barristers, academics and judges who will be transformational for the law community and, importantly, the regional Queensland communities they represent.

The scholarships will provide much-needed financial assistance and mentoring, networking opportunities and encouragement to their deserving recipients, creating supportive and sustainable pathways into careers in law.

The endowment fund target is $150,000 to use the interests to fund at least one annual scholarship in perpetuity.

By giving to CQUniCares, donors are given the opportunity to partner with Australia’s most engaged university. Through making a donation, donors are participants in building shared regions, and enabling life-changing education, research, social innovation and growth.


The CQUniCares Scholarship program changes lives. CQUniversity is grateful to partner with passionate community members, like Professor Kevin Williams, who share the University’s passion for making a difference in the lives of CQUniversity students, their families and communities.







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