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First Nations students celebrated in Valedictory Ceremonies

Jaiden McGregor and Allanna Dengate are among 221 First Nations students graduating this week.
Jaiden McGregor and Allanna Dengate are among 221 First Nations students graduating this week.

The drive to help their fellow humans is at the forefront of the minds of two Charles Darwin University (CDU) First Nations students graduating this week.

Jaiden McGregor and Allanna Dengate are among 221 proud First Nations students graduating in the First Nations Leadership Valedictory Ceremony on Wednesday.

Darwin born and bred, Mr McGregor never thought he would attend university. A disinterest in school and enduring a curriculum he struggled to grasp discouraged Mr McGregor from learning.

It wasn’t until a year after high school when his now fervent desire for learning sparked and he enrolled into the Bachelor of Arts majoring in both Global Humanities and Society and Culture.

“I never had a select interest in life apart from always being curious about the world and things happening around me. I was interested in learning about different societies and cultures,” Mr McGregor said.

“I realised these interests could be put into a degree and after a bit of thought I decided to jump in, and it’s been tough but good. I found my passion for learning after high school.”

Two of Mr McGregor’s main influences are his grandmothers, one who was part of the Stolen Generation and the other born in a remote village in northern India.

“Listening to their stories and different cultural connections they share influenced me to have an open perspective as a young person,” he said.

Their stories also inspired Mr McGregor to pursue a Master of Emergency and Disaster Management, with the goal of working in the humanitarian aid and disaster relief field in South East Asia.

On Wednesday Mr McGregor will deliver a speech at the First Nations Leadership Valedictory Ceremony, eager to impart what he’s learned and highlight the benefits of studying with CDU.

“I want to share a bit of my own experience and express the idea that all of us have had a different journey to be sitting in the Convention Centre this week,” he said.

“Take advantage of the fact CDU has a smaller physical attendance. It’s an opportunity you will not get at the bigger universities down south and it’s probably one of the main reasons I was able to achieve a university degree.”

For Ms Dengate, who is originally from New South Wales and now lives in Western Australia, finding the right education institution was key.

Ms Dengate has more than 25 years’ experience working in the nursing industry, starting from working in the kitchens and laundries to becoming an assistant in nursing and later an enrolled nurse.

She tried unsuccessfully to study with other universities, but it wasn’t until she enrolled at CDU that Ms Dengate felt she could achieve her goal to complete a Bachelor of Nursing.

“Lecturers always took the time to get back to me and I didn’t have to change who I was as a person. I wasn’t put down for my past experiences. I felt I was able to achieve my goals and outcome because I was acknowledged for my experiences,” Ms Dengate said.

Ms Dengate has worked in nursing across Australia but found her true passion in helping people from rural and remote communities. At CDU she completed placements in Katherine and Halls Creek in Western Australia and has since secured a nursing position in the Pilbara.

Her plan is to consolidate her knowledge of rural and remote nursing and in the future, specialise in emergency. Ms Dengate’s advice for those pursing higher education is to not forget where you come from and have the strength to find confidence within yourself.

“If you want something bad enough, you’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen. Your individual drive will make it happen,” she said.

CDU Deputy Vice-Chancellor First Nations Leadership Professor Reuben Bolt was proud to congratulate the latest cohort of graduates.

“We congratulate all our First Nations students who are graduating this week and celebrate their hard work, determination and dedication,” Professor Bolt said.

“Our First Nations students are leaders and role models in their communities. Many are the first in their family to graduate from university. They are proving it’s possible to pursue higher education and succeed in fields they’re passionate about.

“I look forward to seeing which career pathways they choose and becoming the future leaders of our society.”

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