14 February 2023

Keely-Che Cain: Like Mother Like Daughter

photo of Keely at 2023 Orientation Camp
Keely at 2023 Orientation Camp

“To say that my mum is a ‘driving force’ doesn’t even begin to explain what she has done for my sister and me,” says Yalari Class of 2017 alumna and Calrossy Anglican School graduate, Keely-Che Cain.

“She was a single parent with two daughters, living in a three-bedroom house in Moree that we shared with our grandfather, uncles and aunties.

“Mum worked three jobs – as an Aboriginal Education Assistant at our primary school, at Coles in the afternoon, and at Domino’s at night. Right from when we were little, she wanted us to have the best education because she saw that as the key for us to go further in life. She put us through a private primary school in Moree – St Philomena’s – and then applied for Yalari scholarships: first for me, then two years later for my sister.

Keely-Che Cain Yalari Alumna – Class of 2017

We had four older cousins who were already on Yalari scholarships so we knew what was at stake. I remember when Waverley came to our house for the interview … I don’t think it had ever been so clean! I sat up straight and had my hands crossed the whole time. I was so busy trying to impress him that I didn’t really show who I was!”

Keely on the Central Australia Camp

Fast forward just over a decade and Keely is a confident, warm-hearted, charismatic 20-something in her final year of a Bachelor of Social Work and working part-time in the boarding house at one of our partner schools, Abbotsleigh.

“I did a work placement as part of my degree last year with Life Without Borders in Sydney. I was with the team that specifically focusses on Indigenous children who are in out-of-home care. We did a lot of one-on-one work with clients which really showed me what it is like for children living in foster homes.

It made me realise how much background work can be done to help a child. Whilst I don’t think I want to work in that sector full time, I can be there for the Abbotsleigh students; supporting and encouraging them to make the most of all the opportunities education can give them, particularly when they first move away from their families.

I’m hoping to eventually do my Honours year. I’d like to work on youth development programs, particularly in rural communities, and most particularly in my own community. I’d love to help put some youth initiatives in place in Moree because our kids are really smart – some are just making bad decisions.”

Keely with fellow Calrossy students at the Sydney Dinner

Before Keely headed off to start the new school year at Abbotsleigh, she was able to relive some of her best Yalari memories by helping out at this year’s Orientation Camp.

“I loved going to the Yalari camps,” she says, “particularly my Year 7 Orientation Camp. For the first time, I was meeting and connecting with people who were on the same wavelength as me. They wanted to further their education; to excel. They had similar thoughts and feelings and emotions.

Then, for the Year 9 camp, we went to Alice Springs. Meeting the people in those communities made me want to do more to help; to make sure they get the best in life as well.

It was humbling to think that I’d been given this amazing gift – a scholarship to attend one of the best private schools in the country – when these women and girls needed it so much more.

It was always baffling to me that I was given a scholarship; that people like Waverley and Llew and my sponsors believed in me and wanted to help me get not just an education, but the BEST education.

And the most important lesson I learnt through all of that was about myself: That I have a big heart; that when I care about something, I’m just as driven as my mother was when she was working three jobs to put my sister and me through school.”

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Yalari respects our Elders, past and present, and acknowledges that our office is on Kombumerri country within the lands of the Yugambeh language group.