A proud Dubbo Wiradjuri woman, Taylah Gray, is one of two NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Education Scholarship recipients, receiving $10,000 in funds to go towards the assistance of studies.
Miss Gray is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws and Diploma of Legal Practice at the University of Newcastle and will use the funding to persevere with her education.
The scholarship also provided Miss Gray with the opportunity of an additional six-week internship at NSWALC, in which she was paid for and provided her with valuable practical experience for her field.
"I feel very moved, and substantially honoured. I feel deeply appreciated by people who I respect and admire in this field who do important work for our people, and that means very much to me," Miss Gray said.
"I have been interested in First Nations people affairs since I was old enough to spell. I do not remember a time where I was not drawn to its occasion. Because education is central to my identity, my learning is a deeply private act. If I did not have the good fortune today of my education or being honoured this scholarship, I would be somewhere unknown, unread, but learning.
Miss Gray said she will use the scholarship money to give back.
"I have a genuine belief in giving back to my community and hope to mend the struggles we face. I plan on donating a lump sum to one Indigenous student at Senior Campus this year that aspires towards higher education, with a particular interest in law. I hope to develop a relationship and mentor this impending student.
"The Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle and Wiradjuri man, Nathan Towney, is somebody I hold in very high regard. Nathan once expressed to me, "when you leave your community for education take an empty basket.
"Once you have fulfilled your education, take the basket back filled with fruit". The fruit is a symbol of the knowledge you have gained throughout your higher education. The purpose of taking the basket back filled with knowledge is to mend the struggles of your people and rebuild your community. Some people say I romanticise my community too much. But as First Nations people, I just never forget our connection stems from something deeply intrinsic to Country. I choose to see the flourishing acts of love and life amongst the struggles of myself and my people. There is real power in that. There is real power in giving back.
Miss Gray said she hopes young Aboriginal students can pick up this article and realise that they are "more than capable of higher education."
"We come from the same community and we have what it takes to heal our people through education," she said.