Learning to achieve, share and enhance
In February 2010, IBA held a dinner function in Canberra to acknowledge its IBA Scholarship Fund recipients. The function was hosted by ABC Message Stick’s Miriam Corowa and attended by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Secretary Dr Jeff Harmer, IBA Chair Dr Dawn Casey, IBA Board Directors, staff and scholarship recipients.
Acknowledging the economic, business and financial development that can be achieved by having skilled people in Indigenous communities, IBA’s Scholarship Fund was established to assist mature aged Indigenous Australians to complete qualifications in economics, commerce, business or similar disciplines. IBA realised that mature aged people are most likely to bring their knowledge and skills from study back to their communities, rather than choosing to look for jobs in cities or elsewhere.
Sam Raciti is one of the 14 scholarship recipients assisted through the Fund which commenced in 2009. At the dinner in Canberra, Sam was shaking hands with everyone he could. ‘I was taking the opportunity to thank as many people as possible and let them know how grateful I was that IBA was prepared to invest in myself, my family and my community in this way’, he said.
Currently Sam performs book-keeping and financial analysis in his role as Chief Executive Officer of the Mudth-Niyleta Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation located in Sarina, near Mackay in Queensland. His background in finance means he’s also invited to assist other local Indigenous boards. He believes a degree in accounting will bring more professionalism and rigour to his work and the work of local Indigenous organisations. Sam believes this will in turn enable such organisations to concentrate on service delivery.
‘Some not-for-profit organisations run on the smell of an oily rag, so improving financial systems and helping make good decisions based on finances and resources will benefit both my organisation and my community’, he said.
Post-study, Sam is planning to volunteer his time to help his community with its tax returns and, as his children get older, to travel to remote communities around Australia to share his accounting and administrative skills.
Where many scholarships only provide financial support for course fees, the IBA Scholarship Fund helps cover the costs of fees and textbooks as well as day-to-day study-related costs such as child care, IT equipment and other living expenses.
Sam is starting his Bachelor of Accounting at the University of Queensland in 2010, and appreciates the comprehensive nature of the Fund’s financial support. ‘I’d been doing little Certificate IV courses in book-keeping on my own time, but having an opportunity to achieve a degree in my lifetime – that’s something that as a single income family we just wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford’, he said.
Ross Andrews is also an IBA scholarship recipient. He is studying a Bachelor of Business (with a Major in Economics and Regional Development) at James Cook University (JCU) in Cairns, Queensland.
Ross had completed a major health reform project for the Yarrabah Community in Queensland, and found himself suddenly unemployed and looking for further challenges. A cousin forwarded Ross an email about the IBA Scholarship Fund and encouraged him to return to study. ‘It’s been 15 years since I last studied. It’s been highly challenging being in an academic environment after a considerable time working. But it’s personally stimulating, and my professional and life experience has enabled me to embrace those challenges quite quickly’, said Ross.
For Ross and his family the financial assistance the Fund provides has been important. ‘I had already decided to enrol at JCU to undertake a degree in economics, but things were difficult financially for my young family. So the scholarship has made a difference both in my ability to study – like getting the right resources and textbooks – and my approach to study. It has encouraged me to continue with this journey’, he said.
Like Sam, Ross also believes in the importance of engaging Indigenous communities around finance and economic issues. He said:
‘I believe there are many rewards in challenging the existing socio-economic status that our people are in. Governments have placed a high importance on Indigenous communities to become self-sufficient. There is potential in our communities to develop our own economic base. If opportunities are presented, we must be prepared to take them.’
Ross currently volunteers his finance and accounting skills in building the capacity of the local Yarrabah Seahawks Rugby League Club, through developing sponsorship proposals and funding submissions.
Both men encourage mature aged Indigenous men and women with an interest in economics, commerce or business to consider applying for an IBA Scholarship. Sam believes: ‘You’re never too old to keep learning. And the support is there, so have a look around, and if there’s an opportunity, just give it a go.’