Indigenous student Joni Leston is one step closer to her chosen career of Aboriginal Health after being named the inaugural recipient of the Dr Beryl Collier Indigenous Education Scholarship at the University of Newcastle‟s Central Coast campus.
The scholarship was established with a $300,000 bequest for Indigenous students from Dr Beryl Collier, an esteemed gynaecologist and obstetrician.
The scholarship will only be awarded every three to four years and offers the recipient $6,135 plus $5,000 for HECS fees annually - a blessing for financially struggling students.
Joni has faced many challenges in her life. She is a single mother of a child with cystic fibrosis. She became homeless at age 12 and lived on the streets.
She completed Open Foundation in 2008 and is now studying psychology at the Central Coast campus.
Joni said she was honoured to be named the first ever recipient of the scholarship of such a "beautiful‟ scholarship.
“This scholarship will make a huge difference to me. I'm a single mum, who was struggling financially. This now takes the pressure off.
“It is also recognition that I'm working hard at my studies. I've always done things the hard way but I'm so happy that other people believe in me.”
Beryl's long-time friend Mrs Betty Leach said Beryl understood the value of education.
“Beryl was conscious that not everyone has the same opportunities and support to learn as she did. Particularly through her volunteer work with the Central Coast Reconciliation Group, Beryl saw the hurdles that Indigenous people must overcome to access higher education.”
University of Newcastle (UON) Foundation CEO, Louise O'Connell, said that values that Beryl lived by would live on in her legacy.
“This scholarship honours and recognises Beryl's respect for both education and the Indigenous community.”
A collection of 10 Indigenous artworks was also given to the University's Central Coast campus as part of the bequest.
Anyone interested in making a donation to the Central Coast campus can contact the UON Foundation on 02 49217 453 or visit the website at www.newcastle.edu.au/foundation.
About the University of Newcastle (UON) Foundation:
The UON Foundation is the platform for philanthropic support for the University of Newcastle. Donations help fund student scholarships, academic positions, research and University projects..
Media contact: Tanya Carlyle, UON Foundation Communication and Marketing Coordinator, 02 4985 4178 or 0407 276 061.