To make the prospect of attending university less daunting for regional and remote secondary students, Griffith University is offering a glimpse of the future through the First Peoples Aspirations and Pathways to Health program. The program gives high school students the chance to sample ‘uni life’ through a week’s experience on campus.

Paying it forward Tyla West-Chong was among the first group of high school students to benefit, and is proof that the program’s working.

“I was a boarder at Mt St Bernard College in Herberton, Far North Queensland,” says Tyla.

“Hands Up was presented as a summer camp to experience uni and was offered to those of us studying Certificate II in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health.

“I was already interested in a health career, specifically nursing because several of my family members had chosen that career path,” she says.

“The week at Griffith opened my eyes to options other than completing four years of nursing and then signing on for further study in my area of interest.

“I’ve always known I wanted to work with babies so when I was made aware of the direct entry to Midwifery, it was an easy decision.”

Tyla intends to work in a remote community when she graduates, where her future skillset is in high demand.

“Indigenous midwives can help women have their babies where they live, rather than having to travel away from their families to give birth, and that’s something I’m looking forward to,” she adds.

In her second year at Griffith, Tyla has embraced the opportunity to pay it forward, mentoring a younger student from Townsville.

From the Gulf to the Gold Coast

It’s a long way to Southport from Burketown on the Gulf of Carpentaria and for first year nursing student, Milmarja Yanner it all started with a schoolyard conversation about the Hands Up program.

“I was in Year 11 at high school and my cousin was one year ahead of me,” Milmarja says. “He had registered for Hands Up and told me all about the opportunities to go to university.

“He was going to be visiting Griffith Uni on the Gold Coast and he persuaded me to go with him, so I did.

“The experience definitely made me more focused about what I wanted to do after Year 12 and I signed up for another visit the following year, when my cousin was already studying at Griffith.”

Milmarja finished high school and successfully applied to study nursing at Griffith.

“I wasn’t completely prepared for the culture shock when I first started, but I only felt uncomfortable for a week or two before I got used to it,” he says. “There’s plenty of support here and I also have my cousin to help me.

“I’m enjoying my first year and I’m thinking I might go to America for a year before coming home and deciding where I want to work.”