The Good Shepherd First Nations Scholarships

"I have more worth than I first believed....."

European settlement of Australia devastated the way of life and caused numerous deaths of the Indigenous Peoples who had lived on the continent for tens of thousands of years.  Despite modern Australia being a relatively wealthy and tolerant society, First Nations Australians continue to suffer significant disadvantage in every aspect of life. 


The Scholarship Program

The Scholarship was commenced in 2001 for a 3 year period as a result of our increased awareness after the events of 2000 involving many Sisters and Partners in Mission joining strong national protests at the treatment of our First Nations people and our then Prime Minister refusing to express a formal Apology. After research we nominated to the Province Leadership Team Notre Dame University in Broome, Western Australia, as the most needy institution. We consulted Sr Clare Ahern rsj who suggested using MacKillop Foundation to handle the administration, and she nominated a 2nd year nursing student as one who would benefit from the financial help. She was supported for three and a half years successfully.

“Knowing that others had the confidence to grant me this scholarship proves that I have more worth than I first believed.”


In 2007 through an initiative of the Province Social Justice Group, a wider Scholarships Program was developed and implemented.  Up to the present the Good Shepherd Indigenous Project receives $Aus55,000 each year which MacKillop Foundation administers for us and reports twice yearly. To be eligible, the student must be female, of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and be studying at an Australian University or post-secondary College.

The Scholarship Program has an intentionally wide scope.  It offers support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who face significant financial, social or geographic challenges in beginning or continuing higher levels of education. Women of any age who are preparing for or undertaking tertiary study at any level and in any field are eligible.

Each year, the Scholarship Programme will offer several grants-in-aid up to a fixed amount, to assist with expenses associated with studying and/or the cost of additional support to overcome other barriers to successful study, including child care, transport and books.

“The skills and knowledge that I have gained from my studies are being utilised daily because my work involves engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander non-government organisations and assisting them.”

"When I am at home I encourage the younger kids to do their best at school and set long-term goals. Last year I was a group leader/mentor for the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program (funded by the Smith Family) and UNSW Winter School.”


Since 2007, over 100 students have benefitted from the Scholarships, some needing one or two years’ support and others up to 4 years' support. Some students need to defer for a year or so, usually for family reasons, and most then take up a Scholarship again to continue their studies. The courses taken are all post-secondary and range from TAFE (Training and Further Education) courses through to advanced University degrees including Anthropology and Medicine.

Some student experiences....

Tiana E.

Tiana’s first semester this year marked the beginning of her 5th year. She completed an 8 week Medicine placement in the Cardiology and Respiratory wards. Tiana felt as though she learnt a lot from being on a ward and was pleased with her introduction to the practical environment after a year of research. Tiana’s goal for semester 2 is to pass her Biomed exams in order to continue with her degree. Tiana has faced some medical concerns however, has sought and is accessing support where she can. She is determined to achieve her academic goals in semester 2 and moving forward is set to complete her course in 2020.

Vivian Prior C.

Vivian is deferring again this semester to be at home with her baby.

Paris E.

Paris particularly enjoyed the opportunities to be creative this semester and is proud of the 5000 word paper she submitted. She is currently working in an organisation where she is being trained as a junior lawyer for when she is admitted to the bar. She is enjoying this challenging process. Paris is on track to complete her studies in semester 2.

 Eidan D.

Eidan is completing her Bachelor of Nursing at ACU (Australian Catholic University) in Victoria. Eidan has had a successful study period in semester 1. Her highlights included being awarded a graduate position at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne and completing a four week acute placement in the same facility on the Neuroscience’s ward. Eidan is proud of the way she has balanced her studies, work and personal life this semester and was able to achieve excellent academic results. Eidan’s highlights included completing her second acute placement at St Vincent’s Public Hospital in goals for semester 2 include getting through her final semester and preparing to begin work. Eidan is on track to complete her studies this semester.


Gratitude for ongoing funding

This year the Scholarship will support 10 continuing students and 5 new enrolees. We are continuingly grateful both to Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and a private donor for their continued support, knowing that even though many succeed in finishing their studies, those who have to withdraw also benefit greatly from their studies.


Submitted by Sr Joan Murphy