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KDF partnership with The Smith Family - inspiring speech by Priya Collier-Caldwell

Through our partnership with The Smith Family's Learning for Life program we are introduced to some incredible young women, one of whom is Priya Collier-Caldwell – a proud Kamilaroi woman. Priya is currently studying Bachelor of Arts and Education at Macquarie University, where her aim is “to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children”. In a speech that Priya gave at a Smith Family event earlier in 2022, she talked about the impact of the support she has received, including from KDF:

"Hello, my name is Priya Collier-Caldwell. I am a proud Kamilaroi woman, and I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet tonight, the Cammeraygal people.

I am going into my second year of University at Macquarie here in Sydney, where I'm studying for a Bachelor of Arts and Education with a major in English. I aspire to be a high school English teacher. I have always loved helping people and find joy in teaching and sharing the things I am passionate about, that being my culture, education, and English. So, education was an obvious career path for me. I also had amazing teachers throughout my school life, teachers who I knew were passionate about helping me. I saw and experienced the impact teachers had on students, which is why I have chosen to become a teacher. My year 12 English teachers in particular always pushed me, and their support during COVID and throughout my final year of school had an enormous impact on me. They even helped me write my school captaincy speech, which led to me leading the school in 2020. I was deeply inspired by their dedication, and wanted to give back to students and the community the way they did for me.

While I was in high school I also received support from The Smith Family. It wasn’t just financial support, but personal support too. My Family Partnership Coordinator, Chris, always encouraged me with my education. She would come to my school assemblies, and was even there when I was named school captain. She was invested in my education and her encouragement made me really believe in myself. I felt like I had someone on my team pushing me through.

I grew up in Wagga Wagga in regional NSW and went to a school with only 500 kids. I thought that was a lot until I moved to Sydney. I went from knowing all my neighbours and seeing familiar faces everywhere I went - to knowing no one and never seeing the same face twice. Moving to Sydney for uni was the biggest thing I have ever done. I moved away from my family, my community, and into an unknown world. I moved not knowing anyone and not knowing where anything was, I got lost a lot in my first few weeks and honestly, I still do. I was lucky enough to move to campus. I live in a dorm with 150 other students from all over the country and even some international students. It’s been interesting meeting people from all walks of life who’ve all ended up at uni together. Living at college has really helped me with friends and figure out my way in uni. I now have friends I see when I go to the shops and familiar faces at the library and around campus.

I moved to Sydney expecting to go out with all these friends I had made, to make new memories and explore this giant city, but after only a few months in we became stuck. I didn’t see my family for months and most of my new friends left to go back home. I was trapped in an unknown city with people I didn’t know that well. It felt like a prison sometimes. Uni became really hard, and I struggled to maintain a healthy study/life balance. I am the first person in my family to go to university which made everything even harder. I didn't have someone to ask what a lecture was like, or how to adapt to a university workload. My family still doesn’t really understand uni and really neither do I. Every month was different last year with lectures online, or some classes being in person and others online. It was constantly changing. I still have not had an in-person lecture and I’m going into my second year, however that will change in a few weeks with campus re-opening. I’m quite nervous about going to a huge lecture hall with so many of my peers, but I think it will be fun to be back in person and meet more people.

I wouldn’t be at university without The Smith Family. In 2018, I was awarded the Katrina Dawson Prize. This is given to girls on The Smith Family’s learning for Life program who demonstrate strong academic performance, show promise in community leadership, and for whom the financial support would make a meaningful difference. For me it made a huge difference. It helped me to buy a laptop for the following year when I entered year 11. I needed that computer, because I was studying a university level subject by distance. But, more importantly, a pass in that subject would mean early entry into Macquarie University. So in 2019 - when I was in year 11 - I passed a university unit and was awarded early entry to MQ. This was a huge relief, because in 2020 - my final year of High School - COVID struck and study became a lot harder, and the computer a lot more necessary. If it weren’t for The Smith Family and the Katrina Dawson Award, I wouldn’t have been able to afford that computer, and my future could have been very different.

Now I am the first person in my family to study at university, which is something I am very proud of. My younger siblings now have someone to ask about tutorials and lectures, about moving away to study, or how to enrol in subjects. I can now answer questions for them that no-one could answer for me. My dream is to teach in rural and remote communities. I want to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous children, to give kids the resources they require to achieve their own dreams, like what my own family and The Smith Family did for me. I understand the importance of teaching children the basics - but I also know the importance of teaching children kindness and respect. Something I hope to do with continuing support from The Smith Family. Thank you."


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