School of Indigenous Studies

Lilly Brown

  School of Indigenous Studies student Lilly   

When I finished high school I went to university to do Business on a provisional entry scheme and didn’t do very well. I was not particularly interested in the course and being 17 in addition to being one of the few in my extended family to attend university, I found it a bit of a struggle not having the same mentorship and advice as other people in my course.

After this I spent some time in the North-west and lived in the United Kingdom for a half a year before coming back to Australia and applying to do a Bachelor of Arts in History and Anthropology at the University of Western Australia.

Both of these disciplines have historically affected Aboriginal people, sometimes negatively, and I found them an interesting avenue to interrogate governmental policies and mainstream attitudes, past and present, that have culminated in the Stolen Generations and more recently the Northern Territory Intervention.

I found the difference in studying something that I was passionate about and compared to the degree I attempted before, astounding. All of a sudden I found university inspirational and a constructive way to express some of the frustrations I was feeling about issues regarding non-Indigenous and Indigenous issues in this country.

Since then I have completed an amazing semester abroad at McGill University in Montreal Canada, where I experienced snow for the first time and had the opportunity to meet some of our Canadian First Nations brothers and sisters.

After Canada, I decided I wanted to look more specifically not only at the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but also the wonderful things we have to contribute – creatively and culturally. So I completed a semester of cross-institutional study at the University of Melbourne before beginning my Honours year in Australian Indigenous Studies focusing on activism, racial literacy and anti-racism within higher education.

When considering taking my studies further, I felt that university was an opportunity to constructively and critically interrogate policies past and present, and the attitudes of Australian people that allowed culminations like the Stolen Generations to occur and the unequal social and economic position of Aboriginal people to continue. I believe in the possibilities universities can provide in nurturing and engaging Indigenous students while positively contributing to an increased understanding within the wider Australian community, especially when considering that Aboriginal people are under-represented at all levels of education within Australia.

As an Indigenous Australian woman, passionate about education, I understand the importance of this education when considering my future aspiration to be an educator and academic within universities myself. I also acknowledge the power such an education carries when one hopes, like I do, to influence the education system to accommodate Indigenous people, knowledge, language and ways of knowing.

Because of this passion, I applied to both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge to undertake a Masters in Education. I accepted an offer from Cambridge to do a Masters of Philosophy in Politics, Development and Democratic Education. I am now in the UK and at Cambridge with two other Indigenous students who are studying at Oxford, with the financial support of the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust.

I would like to acknowledge the fact that my access to education is a part of a legacy that exists due to the past strength and accomplishments of Charlie Perkins and other Indigenous activists. I find strength and honour in knowing that if those proud Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and voices before me and around me still did not speak up, then we would have no platform to stand on!

So I just want to say from my own experience I have come to see university as a great opportunity to see the world, get inspired and connect with others. You will get back what you put in… so get involved!