Student profile: Diana David, BA (Extended)
Diana is studying the Bachelor of Arts (Extended), a unique program for Indigenous students including foundational studies, support services and accommodation at one of the nearby colleges.
My name is Diana David. I am a Kaanju woman from Central Cape York. I grew up in Far North Queensland. I completed year 12 I decided to stay in Cairns and work. Before I started my degree at the University of Melbourne I was working with the Cape York regional bodies, The Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership also Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation – (The Traditional Knowledge Recording Project). When I decided it was time to further my study, I discovered the BA (Extended). I am now completing my last year at the University of Melbourne my majoring in Politics/International Studies.
How was your transition into first year?
The first year was confronting. Most of the students around me were from Victoria and they could go home whenever they needed. As I was from Cape York, I wasn't able to just go home and see family. We formed a network with other Indigenous students from around Australia in and around Ormond College
we also formed strong relationships with the wider Indigenous community in Victoria.
What has been one of your highlights?
One of my most amazing experiences was going to India as one of the University students selected to go on the Australia India Institute's Australia-India Study Tour. I believe India is a growing mega-democracy and has the potential to be a valuable strategic partner for Australia and the rest of the world. Australia's relationship with India, it recognises the growing importance of India in world affairs. I courage two way learning and I courage all Indigenous student students to make the most of every opportunity the University has to offer. It was such an important experience to see another culture and how they lived and how they were different to my culture.
Did you take part in any extracurricular activities?
During the first year of the BA (Extended) we started an Indigenous student committee at Ormond College, which is still active today. The committee was made up of four Indigenous students and 11 non-Indigenous, including some international students. We started the canvas project at Ormond College where we invited everybody to write what they thought about Indigenous people on a blank canvas. It is still hanging up at the College.
I was part of the first ever Indigenous team from the University of Melbourne to take part in the Indigenous University Games. The University helped us make it to Newcastle to participate where we were undefeated. We also hosted the games here at the University.
Outside of the University, I have been taking part in the Oxfam Change Course. My role in this program is to provide mentorship to Indigenous students who are undertaking development projects in their communities.
What is it like being an Indigenous student at the University of Melbourne?
For many non-Indigenous students I met during my first year here, it was the first time they had studied with Indigenous students, It surprised me to discover that these students from some of the prestigious high schools in Victoria said they had no Indigenous students at their school or hadn't been taught Indigenous culture or history. They would ask us questions to find out if something they had heard in media was true, such as whether we lived in grass huts or didn't have electricity. It was a positive to be able have these discussions and break down stereotypes. Now that Indigenous programs are getting bigger and our presence here is larger, it's getting easier to change people's views on Indigenous affairs.
At university tutorials when Indigenous issues were discussed, people would first look to me like I had all the answers or seek approval for a viewpoint or even would be afraid to say their view in case they were wrong.
What will you do after you graduate?
I thought about going straight back to Cape York and working again, but while I am passionate about Indigenous affairs and would like I want to branch out. I have seen my father and grandfather work hard for land rights and equality, but they lacked education and could've gone further. I want to get the best education possible so I can advocate for my people. I will never forget where I'm from, but I think bridging the gap can be about making something positive for yourself. I feel I have an opportunity to better benefit my community by educating myself further.