I had the honour to receive this year’s bursary sponsored by Member of Parliament, Tracy Davis. This bursary is awarded to a woman studying at PhD level whose research will likely impact women’s health, and whose research interests have been shaped by community and/or professional involvement. I am grateful to Tracy and to all of the NCWQ members who have dedicated their time, funds and organizational skills to make such a bursary program possible.
I recall feeling rather unique on the bursary awards night, as I am roughly twice the age of most other award recipients. I listened to some of the younger women, knowing that most of the goals, dreams and ambitions that one expresses at 20 years of age inevitably change by the time 40 rolls around, and continue to change throughout life. I can only imagine that at twice my age, I will reflect upon all of the destinations, twists and turns on “life’s map” with an even deeper appreciation for the journey. As author Eileen Kennedy-Moore writes, “the path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect, and it’s rarely a straight line.”
You may gather from my accent that I was not born here in Australia. I was born in Miami, Florida, into a family who had emigrated from Russia to America, 50 years before. The life maps of children of immigrants are often shaped by the dreams of their parents and grandparents who have travelled to a new land in pursuit of religious freedom, economic opportunity and civil liberty. No matter where our families have come from, most of us can recall elder relatives who undertook enormous hardships in hopes that the next generation might live in a country offering sustenance, education, and peace. My family was no different. And my aspirations for my own children, the next generation, are exactly the same.
My family’s strong commitment to women’s education and equity influenced me from a young age. The women in my family – my mother, grandmother, aunties and cousins — were very active in women’s organizations and social justice movements. I learned that women could achieve by working together for a common goal, no matter their personal differences, motivations, politics, faith, or background. And that sometimes, audacity and boldness were essential qualities, in order to be heard.
My PhD research is based with the Stillbirth Research team at Mater Research Institute and School of Public Health at the University of Queensland. In Australia, for every 135 births, there is one stillbirth. Stillbirth can have lifelong and devastating consequences for the emotional and physical health of women.
The majority of stillbirths are preceded by a mother’s perception of a change in her baby’s movements. I am analyzing outcomes of a clinical trial called My Baby’s Movements. One aspect of the trial offers women information about fetal movement through a mobile application. My research will offer new insight into how innovative, patient-centred mobile tools may contribute to more Australian women coming home from the hospital with a healthy baby.
Support on a personal and institutional level is instrumental in providing much-needed funds, and for building the confidence of, women who have big dreams, big potential and big contributions to make. It was a true honour to receive the NCWQ bursary this year and to meet the other recipients at the awards ceremony. These women represent a breadth of backgrounds, pursuits, stories, challenges, and dreams. If you supported the bursary programs in the past, as well as the investment you have made toward individual women, you have invested in a rising generation of women leaders for this state.
I contacted this year’s recipients and asked them to share 3 words describing their feelings on the evening of the awards ceremony. In order of how frequently they were cited, allow me to share them with you.
1 AwedBursary recipients represent a broad range of academic and vocational fields. Public Health. Nursing and aged care. Law. Teaching. Agriculture. Carpentry. History. Engineering. Music. Journalism. International development.
And their characteristics are wide-reaching. Women hoping to graduate from apprenticeships. Bachelors degrees. Masters degrees, PhDs. Women who show their strength in different ways while pursuing their education. Women traversing the challenges of their own mental health or physical abilities. Women who find a way to push forward, push ahead. Women who are also caring for family members in need, with young children, partners or elders with cancer. Women studying far from home. Women with refugee backgrounds. Indigenous leaders. Women transitioning to independence after foster care. Women who have experienced domestic violence.
And amongst them all, women who stand out as working hard to make a difference to others, while also building their own confidence, skills and networks toward success. I also asked this group to share a few sentences about how the NCWQ bursary has impacted their educational goals or attainment. Their responses have been compiled in this “word cloud”, which I encourage you to take a look at today. Please indulge me as I weave together some of this narrative and come to a close.
“The bursary has provided an important validation of my choice to study as a mature age student, with education as a lifelong pursuit.”
“It paid for equipment for my research.”
“The bursary has helped pay for expenses associated with my trip to England, where I completed two courses and gained credit towards my degree.”
“This bursary is a reassuring pat, acknowledging the effort put into my studies and in the community, and has given me more motivation to pursue my goals.”
“It has helped me travel to the USA to complete a semester of Uni on exchange. Furthermore it has reinforced that I am on the right track to reach my goals and inspired me to reach for more.”
“The bursary had a very positive impact on me, it showed me to have more faith in myself and that I can reach absolutely any goal that I set for myself. The awards night was particularly memorable. I left the room feeling empowered and inspired to make changes for women.”
“Receiving one of the NCWQ bursaries has made the financial aspect of moving away to university easier on me and my family.”
“The NCWQ bursary has made a real difference to my financial difficulties as a mature aged apprentice, and helped with fees and required tools. Since receiving the award I have completed my TAFE studies and become a qualified carpenter.”
“The NCWQ bursary has helped me to pursue my career goals towards gaining a Law degree. I have been able to purchase all my textbooks this semester, as well as a printer and stationery supplies.”
“The bursary encouraged me that others saw value and potential in what I was doing. It also inspired me to work harder- after hearing the inspirational stories of the other recipients, I want to live up to the honour given to me by the NCWQ.”
I want to thank you and your supporting organisations for giving me and other aspiring women in Queensland a boost of confidence, guidance toward achieving our goals, and funding to prepare us to learn, to lead, and succeed.
Click HERE to read the full range of 2016 Bursary Recipient responses.