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Student in focus: Abelee's story

[supplied by Catherine Marks]

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Image: supplied

Abelee Stanley's grandparents were forcibly moved to Cherbourg under government orders. For two generations the family worked to make sure their children had freedoms and opportunities they did not.

That devotion came to fruition this year when Abelee earned an Indigenous scholarship at Bond University to study a Diploma of Arts, with the plan to progress to a Bachelor of Social Science.

 

The 18-year-old is acutely aware of what it means to be the first in her family to embark on higher education.

 

“My pop was never given the opportunity to go to university or do any sort of education in Cherbourg - he was one of the dormitory boys,” Abelee says.

 

“Every chance he had he would push me to go for it, wanting me to do the best and do the things he couldn’t do.”

 

Abelee is also inspired by her “amazing” mother who raised five children as a single woman.

 

“When I was younger I never realised how much she sacrificed for me, and now that I do, I am forever grateful,” she says.

 

“It pushes me. I am doing it for myself, but I’m also doing it for them.”

 

Abelee grew up in Murgon, 6km from Cherbourg where thousands of Aboriginal people from throughout Queensland were forcibly moved from 1901 to 1971. Many were children who were raised in state-controlled dormitories.

 

Abelee has Aboriginal (Birri Gubba and Barunggam) and Torres Strait Islander (Mabuiag Island) heritage, although cultural networks have fractured.

 

“I’ve heard through my pop and nan about the tribes and the connections, but I’ve never known a lot about it,” she says. “They were forced to move to Cherbourg when they were younger and grew up speaking English.

 

“My connections through my Aboriginal side were lost. I don’t know much about it and that’s a sad thing.”

 

Abelee’s uncle Waverley Stanley has also fired her passion for education and how it can transform First Nations lives. Waverley is the Founding Director of the not-for-profit organisation Yalari that places Indigenous students at some of Australia’s best schools.

 

Abelee interned with Yalari last year and travelled to the Torres Strait to see the impact it has had and learn more about her Islander heritage.

 

A talented sportswoman, she was part of the Australian Sevens rugby development squad in 2018 and the first Queensland under 18 women’s rugby league team. Her ultimate sporting goal is to represent Australia.

 

When she graduates, Abelee hopes to use her degree to mentor Indigenous children from rural communities like her hometown, 250km northwest of Brisbane.

 

“My mum was involved in social work in an Indigenous community, in foster care,” she says.

 

“My older sister has also done social work and hearing from them has made me really interested. Working with children has changed their lives and their view on life.

 

“I would find working in that area a way of giving back. Being part of a small community, everyone works together to raise who you are.”

 

Abelee’s scholarship is part of a comprehensive package of support from the Envato Foundation which will benefit Indigenous students at Bond University over two years.