During an incredibly challenging year for all of us, students from the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) have shown perseverance, resilience and tenacity in continuing with their education. The students have been forced to adapt to travel restrictions and new remote learning structures, and have continued to excel in their academic, sporting, social justice and leadership endeavours.
As TEDxSydney’s Pay It Forward partner for 2020, AIEF is celebrating over 70 students from Partner Schools across Australia who will this year graduate from high school. Many of the AIEF Scholarship Students graduating this year will be the first in their family to finish Year 12 or to go to university, ultimately becoming role models for their communities and future generations.
With border restrictions in place, Year 12 students from every state and territory gathered to celebrate the important milestone of graduation at an online ceremony hosted by AIEF.
Patron-in-Chief and Governor-General of Australia The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) delivered a special message to the AIEF graduating class, reminding them of the individual and collective power they hold in changing our nation. “We know what flows from completing Year 12; individual lives changed for the better, and stronger families, communities and economies”.
AIEF Executive Director Andrew Penfold AM spoke about the difficulties the students have overcome this year. “We are so proud of all our AIEF Scholarship Students who have shown dedication and resilience in the face of constantly shifting challenges.”
Mr Penfold echoed the Governor-General’s message about the transformative power of education. “AIEF started with the aim of educating a generation of young Indigenous people who are changing the nation. You are role models for the next generation just as others were role models for you. There are a lot of people who have helped you along the way to reach this point – take your education and make them proud.”
Since 2008, AIEF has grown from one scholarship student to now supporting over 1,000 young Indigenous people from over 400 communities in every state and territory of Australia. Students hail from as far north as Dauan Island, to Smithton in the south, Mullumbimby in the east and Carnarvon in the west. The Class of 2020 joins a growing network of AIEF Alumni who are role models in their communities and are contributing to a generation of change in Australia.
In what are likely to be tough economic conditions when these students finish Year 12, it is more important than ever that AIEF will continue to support Indigenous students with their preparation for further study or employment after finishing school.
Several AIEF Alumni shared messages of congratulations to the Class of 2020. AIEF Alum Sarah Treacy (Macquarie University, 2019; Loreto Normanhurst, 2012) encouraged the students to carry with them the lessons of resilience and perseverance they have learned during their boarding school journeys.
“Whether you go back into your community and work locally, or pursue higher education; remember to push through. We are very capable of doing that as strong black young people.”
The AIEF Class of 2020 were asked what completing Year 12 means to them, their families and communities – watch their powerful responses here.