The four recipients of this year’s Scholarships are: James Cook University graduate Vincent Backhaus, University of New South Wales graduate Rex Betar, University of Melbourne graduate Sarah Lynn Rees and Australian National University graduate Leila Smith. [On 19 April 2013, Rex Betar informed the Trust that he will be unable to take up the Scholarship for family reasons]
Vincent Backhaus, a descendant of the Kalkadoon people from Queensland and the Kiwai people of Parama Island north of the Torres Strait, has been accepted to an MPhil in Psychology and Education at Cambridge and an MSc in Education (Research Design and Methodology) at Oxford.
Rex Betar, a Bundjalung man from Tweed Heads in NSW, will undertake an MBA at Saïd Business School at Oxford.
Sarah Lynn Rees, a descendant of the Plangermaireener people in Tasmania, will undertake an MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design at Cambridge.
Leila Smith, a Wiradjuri woman whose family comes from Cowra in NSW, will undertake an MPhil in Public Policy at Cambridge.
Later this year, they will join in the UK the inaugural Charlie Perkins Scholars, Paul Gray and Christian Thompson, who commenced their doctoral studies at Oxford in 2010. They also join Kyle Turner who commenced his doctoral studies as a Charlie Perkins Scholar at Oxford in 2012.
Other 2012 Charlie Perkins Scholars, Lilly Brown (Cambridge) and Krystal Lockwood (Oxford) will finish up their Master’s degrees later this year, as will Rebecca Richards, Australia’s first Indigenous Rhodes Scholar.
Jointly supported by the Australian Government, the British Government (through the Chevening program), Rio Tinto, Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, Cambridge Australia Scholarships, Oxford University, the Pratt Foundation and the University of Canberra, and managed by the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust, the scholarship program was established in 2009 in the memory of Dr Charlie Perkins AO, the first Indigenous Australian male to graduate from university.
Charlie was inspired to return to Australia to undertake university study after playing in a soccer match against Oxford University. He completed a Bachelor of Arts from Sydney University in 1966.
Speaking about the Scholarships, Trustee of the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust, Rachel Perkins said:
“The trust is proud to announce the support of these four extraordinary Indigenous scholars to study at Oxford and Cambridge this year. It is a wonderful realisation of my father’s vision that Indigenous people must strive for excellence in all endeavours.
“Two years ago there had never been an Indigenous Australian studying for a full-time degree at Oxford or Cambridge – consistently two of the top ranked universities in the world. Later this year, through ours and various other scholarship programs there will be 15 Indigenous Australians studying for full-time postgraduate degrees at Oxford and Cambridge. All of these are accepted purely on the basis of merit. People told us not long ago that such an outcome was inconceivable. Things are definitely changing and today we focus and celebrate these students, their families and their communities’ success.
“I sincerely thank the Australian Government, the British Government, Rio Tinto, the Vice Chancellor and Development Office at Oxford University, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, Cambridge Australia Scholarships, the Pratt Foundation and the University of Canberra and the many others who have made these outstanding awards possible.”
The scholarship is valued at over $50,000 per annum and includes all tuition fees and living expenses.