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Mystery donor sends Cape York students to Bond University

March 27, 2020

An anonymous donor will pay for two students to attend Bond University after visiting their remote Indigenous community.

Jamila Piva and Zali Hobson received the scholarships after the benefactor took part in the Gold Coast university's annual Yarning Up trip to far north Queensland.

When Ms Piva and Ms Hobson graduate, they will become the second and third residents of Lockhart River to earn university qualifications.

The town on eastern Cape York is among the most isolated in Queensland. In the dry season, reaching Cairns involves a 12-hour, 760km drive on mostly dirt roads. In the wet, it's a two-hour flight that costs $600 one way.

Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher said only one other resident had attained a university degree about 15 years ago.

"We've been working with Bond for several years to get to this point and we hoped to get one student there but now we've got two, so that's even better," Cr Butcher said.

"It means a lot to the community. We always talk about the importance of education but Year 12 seems to be the end of the road for the majority of our kids."

Cr Butcher said one of the biggest barriers to higher education in Lockhart River was the emotional pull of home.

"One of the core values in Indigenous culture is the family value. We love to live together as a close-knit family.

"So for young kids to go away is challenging but it's hard on the family as well."

Ms Piva said she and Ms Hobson had already lived away from home and would lean on each other at Bond.

"We both went to boarding school at Downlands College (in Toowoomba) and we’re excited to attend uni together too," Ms Piva said.

Bond University Vice Chancellor and President Tim Brailsford said he was proud of the university's commitment to Indigenous education, with 95 students awarded tuition scholarships since 2012, including 12 this year.

"Our association with Lockhart River has opened up our eyes and I trust these new scholarships will open up the eyes of two fantastic young Indigenous Australians," Professor Brailsford said.

"These scholarships would not be possible without the generosity and outstanding support of an anonymous donor.

"They are providing funds the university will match. On behalf of the university and our students, we thank the donor very much.

"We look forward to welcoming Jamila and Zali to Bond University."

The pair will do a university preparation program and a Diploma of Arts before considering further study options.

Yarning Up, the program that sparked the scholarships, hosts Bond University supporters on an annual trip to an Indigenous community.

The itinerary includes cultural presentations, open discussions about challenges and achievements, and one-on-one conversations with parents, grandparents, Elders and community leaders.