“Education can change lives. I want to be part of guiding the next generation.” 

Oliver completed Year 12 at Knox Grammar School in 2017 on an AIEF Scholarship.


My name is Oliver (Olly) and I am a proud Wiradjuri man from central NSW and an AIEF Alum.

When I was younger, I had the opportunity to watch my older siblings go through their boarding journeys on AIEF Scholarships and I knew that it was something I wanted for myself.

Every time I thought of attending a school in Sydney, I thought of adventure, arts, drama, languages, leadership and the chance to be myself. I knew that Sydney would be a place where I would flourish and be able to explore city life.

AIEF helped me and my family make this a reality, and in 2012 I started at Knox Grammar School on an AIEF Scholarship.

Growing up in a regional town meant that my education and extracurricular activities were limited. When I got to Knox – my world opened. I had the chance to participate in a wide range of different activities and I fully embraced boarding and school life. I participated in Cadets, Pipe Band and Choir – activities that have helped shape who I am today. I knew I wanted to make my mob proud and my family proud. I knew that the only way forward was to put my hand up and give it my best.

It was in Cadets that I found my passion for teaching and education. I was leading a group of 40 students, teaching them drills, theory, radio communications and first aid – I felt as though I was made to do this kind of work. I enjoyed putting together PowerPoint presentations and mini quizzes for the students in my squadron – it gave me a sense of responsibility.

I place great value in being a knowledge carrier for my family and my community – and I feel as though it’s a privilege to have the ability to pass on and share this knowledge with others. I have always believed that education can change lives and I wanted to be a part of guiding the next generation of young Indigenous people.

I have recently graduated from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Education and was grateful to be able to live on campus and receive an AIEF Tertiary Scholarship. Whilst at UNSW, I also had the opportunity to take on a role as Residential Fellow and help other young Indigenous student’s transition to into university life.

When I walked across the stage during my Graduation, with a kangaroo skin on my back, an Indigenous stole around my shoulders, and a big smile on my face, I recognised that I had come so far from that little boy in regional NSW.

I am now capable of helping the next generation to use their education and their opportunities to create change in the world.

Since graduating, I am now working part-time as a Visual Arts teacher while also beginning my Honours thesis. My proposed thesis is focused on investigating Indigenous student participation in the classroom. Given my own lived experienced as a student in regional NSW and then in metropolitan Sydney, I am conducting research at schools in these two areas. I am hoping to use these learnings in my own teaching one day.

In my role as a Visual Arts teacher, I often incorporate aspects of Indigenous art and culture into my lessons. I am currently working with a group of Year 7 students on insect and pattern lino art – something which they are loving. The ability to merge my passion for education and art is one of my greatest achievements.

I have also been assisting with Cadets and have recently taken up a position as the inaugural First Nations Officer for the unit. I am still developing the program, but I am looking at how to explore teachings from Elders in the area, connection to Country and incorporating aspects of culture such as smoking ceremonies, dancing, language, bush tucker and weaponry.

I think it’s important that Indigenous culture is represented and starts to be seen more regularly in everyday life. That can start within schools and education.  I’m trying to do my part by imparting my knowledge and having representation in my classroom with a laminated Acknowledgement of Country and lesson plans that incorporate Indigenous art.

My AIEF Mentor, who I first met in Year 10 at Knox, remains a strong supporter of me and my work. We still catch up and see each other – he helps me out with any questions I have about my career and my life.

By attending boarding school, my world completely changed. Attending Knox gave me the courage and the confidence to go into new situations with a belief in myself.

I wouldn’t have had that opportunity without AIEF.

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