Meet Hayden, First Nations Scholarship recipient

“This journey is not just about me, it’s about my people.”

Growing up, Hayden loved reading and learning all that he could. The more he learnt, the more he began to see the injustices that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were facing. That’s when he decided on his dream of becoming a lawyer.

When Hayden agreed to share his story with us, he was quick to say:

“This journey is not just about me, it’s about my people. I grew up in Ballarat and my family are Wiradjuri from Cootamundra. It has always been important to me to do something where I can make a difference for Aboriginal people. I’ve actually been inspired a lot by Mary MacKillop – for her tenacity to genuinely care for others without judgement.”

Staying true to his dream, Hayden dedicated himself to many years of studying for his Bachelor of Law at university, while volunteering as much as possible in positions that would give him relevant legal experience. He recently graduated with Honours! But studying wasn’t without its challenges.

“Honestly, without the scholarship I wouldn’t have finished the degree. The scholarship meant I didn’t have to worry about finances while I studied. My old laptop broke when I needed it most and the team at Mary MacKillop Today were able to fast-track scholarship funds for me so I could get a new laptop right away. It meant my studies weren’t disrupted by being without a laptop, and it also meant I could invest in a good quality laptop to help me work faster.”

Since graduating, Hayden told us the wonderful news that he has been offered a position with Victorian Legal Aid through their Indigenous graduate lawyer program.

“I wanted to work for Victorian Legal Aid because I can see they genuinely put forth opportunities for First Nations people to progress in their employment. I’m excited about working on Indigenous issues in this new role.”

It’s easy to feel inspired when talking to Hayden. He has worked incredibly hard to get to where he is now, and he wants to help others get ahead too.

He has a powerful message to pass on to the people supporting the First Nations Scholarship program, and also some words of encouragement for other students:

“To the supporters making donations towards scholarships – you are a very good group of people contributing to closing the gap and the hurt. I wholeheartedly mean this. You deserve a pat on the back for helping us all move forward.

And to fellow students studying – don’t give up! It’s often hardest in those last steps towards finishing a degree. I want to encourage you to push through. We need more Indigenous students to achieve self-determination. Education means we can make decisions for ourselves. Seize every volunteer position you can to build up experience and—most of all—be genuine as a person.”

Hayden continues to work hard towards his education goals and is now studying the second part of his double degree, a Bachelor of Criminology, which he plans to complete this year.

Find out more about Mary MacKillop Today’s First Nations Scholarship Program here.