A young Yuin man pursuing a double degree has been announced this month as one of four scholarship recipients of the Community Sector Banking Indigenous Scholarship Program.

In its third year, the program from the not-for-profit banking specialist provides a $10,000 scholarship to each student to undertake tertiary education at any Australian university.

“I was really surprised when I got it, it was great. My journey so far … has been one that isn’t your usual. I’ve had struggles here and there, and I suppose showing that on my application and being able to bounce back from that … helped,” said Jordan Mlotkowski.

From Cessnock, NSW, Mlotkowski started his schooling career in Woy Woy on the central coast. Before entering Year 7, he moved down to Nowra to complete his secondary education closer to family on Yuin Country.

Now 18, Mlotkowski is studying a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Arts majoring in Social Studies at Macquarie University.

He has a strong passion for Aboriginal education and hopes to provide guidance for younger generations—a passion born from his own experience.

“Back in my school, I faced a lot of issues surrounding mental health, things with family … basically it saw me lose motivation when I got into my senior years,” Mlotkowski said.

“Halfway through Year 12, when I was getting ready to do my HSC, I stopped coming to school. I stopped talking to everyone, I was at my lowest.”

Through an early entry program run by Macquarie University’s Indigenous Centre, Walanga Muru, Mlotkowski was able to gain entry into his degree by the time he had completed Year 11.

“They helped me so much … it got me early entry [into university] with the condition I had to get my HSC.

“There was still a lot of unknowns. I got kicked out of high school because I stopped going, my attendance was so bad. I had a Principal who was right behind me and he really rallied for me, I let him down that way.

“When I got kicked out, I got a call from one of the staff members at Walanga Muru saying the offer still is on the table if I wanted to go to uni. I just had to make the effort to go in and talk to them.

“I had a moment where I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve been given this opportunity. I should take it.’ I will be the second person in my whole family to go to uni, other than my Mum.”

Now living in Sydney, close to his university and in the midst of studying, Mlotkowski feels like he’s on the right path to doing what he loves.

“I feel like being here is the right thing for me and even now, part way through this year, I just feel it is right. Being here is my pathway, and I’m so glad I took the steps to get here,” he said.

“When I get my degree, I want to get into working with programs like AIME [Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience], give back to the young people. I experienced firsthand how the system fails some kids and how it almost failed me.”

“I can understand the struggles … Indigenous kids face, those struggles that aren’t recognised, that internal stuff.”

The other three recipients of the $10,000 scholarships include, Alexis Dorbis from Portland, NSW, Thomson Fleming from Broken Hill, NSW, and Taleiyah Minniecon from Andergrove, Queensland.

Community Sector Banking staff member and proud Yuwaalaraay woman, Emily Chapman, sits on the Indigenous Scholarship Program Selection Committee and Reconciliation Action Plan Committee.

“Each applicant is unique and deserving, but these amazing students really stood out to us. We hope these scholarships provide students the support needed to complete their degrees and we look forward to not only seeing how they progress through their chosen studies but to also see what’s in store for them following completion of their studies,” Chapman said.

Since established in 2018, Community Sector Banking has provided 14 scholarships that have assisted students across the nation move into their careers through university, TAFE, or an apprenticeship or traineeship.

By Rachael Knowles