For Jodene, Yalari Opened Up A Room With 100 Doors
“I remember my first Yalari interview like it was yesterday. I was 11 years old, sitting with my mum talking to Llew and Waverley in a spare TAFE classroom, just around the corner from my primary school in Kununurra.
To anyone else, it would have just looked like four people talking in a room. But, for me, it was a defining moment. That point where everything changed. The start of an incredible journey.”
Jodene Garstone was part of the first cohort of young students from Western Australia to receive a Rosemary Bishop Indigenous Education Scholarship, generously sponsored by Commercial Eyes.
In 2011, she travelled from her family home in the remote Kimberley region to Geelong Grammar School where her determination to complete Year 12 and go on to study at university has never wavered.
“To be honest, I didn’t have the best ATAR score when I finished Year 12. I was so disheartened. I really wanted to go to uni, but felt I could only apply for universities and degrees that would accept my ATAR, rather than what I was genuinely interested in. It was like my whole self-worth was reduced to a number.
Then, on a whim, I applied to the Australian National University in Canberra. I didn’t get into my chosen course, but I was offered a place in an alternative pathway program. I was pretty embarrassed. But I knew I was smart and my ATAR number was not a reflection of my intelligence or value, so I accepted the offer and worked really hard for the first year, determined to transition into a Bachelor of Arts.”
Jodene ultimately combined her Arts degree with Law studies and will complete her double Arts/Law degree, with Honours, in November 2023.
Along the way, she has experienced the world of politics, interning with the Hon. Linda Burney MP in the early stages of the COVID pandemic. She has also interned with the National Native Title Council and served as Co-Chair of King & Wood Mallesons’ First National Youth Voice Council. Not surprisingly, Jodene is currently considering a future career in the area of native title and policy reform.
“I’m so excited by the future.”
As the Master of Ceremonies at this year’s Yalari Graduation at Parliament House in Canberra, Jodene shared that excitement with this year’s cohort of 26 Yalari graduates.
“For the last six years, you have been working in two worlds – the world of your peers and boarding school, and the world of your culture and family,” she told them.
“This has no doubt been difficult to navigate at times, but you’ve done it with your Yalari brothers and sisters – and so did I.
All 26 graduates and every one of the 450+ Yalari alumni are connected by this shared experience of walking in two worlds. I am so excited that you are all going to be part of this alumni family and experience the love we all have for each other.”
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