“I think I’ve always been interested in conservation and ecology – I just didn’t think I could make a career out of it. I was working at a travel agent and began to re-examine my life. I started volunteering in conservation and thought I’d definitely love to work in this. I started googling and found the TAFE course but I didn’t want to give up fulltime money. Then COVID hit and I lost my job, about 80% of the company was stood down. So COVID made the decision for me. It’s been the best journey of my life so far, it’s been incredible.
‘Collect and Classify Plants’ is by far my favourite subject, I’m a bit of a flora nerd. We go and collect native plant samples to put together a 100-plant herbarium. I really enjoy the theory side too; we ID all the features of a plant and learn a lot about the plant families and genuses within them.
Another fascinating subject was ‘Develop a Coastal Rehabilitation Strategy’, where we had to put together a management plan for a coastal project.
What the scholarship meant to me
I cried when I learnt I’d won the scholarship.
My first foster placement was at six months old. I went through about 50 foster homes up until I was 16. I started my adulthood with that handicap. I got away from it all and thought, ‘I’ve got to make a life for myself and achieve things’ but I’ve always experienced financial hardship as well.
I’ve never been in the position where someone’s given me a scholarship or helped me financially. I was taken aback by it to be honest.
The scholarship has done a lot for me. One of the first things I bought was a lot of field guides for flora identification. I’ve never spent so much money on books before in my life! I use my phone a lot when we’re out in the field but we often go to places where it’s incredibly rural and the nearest town is two hours away (no phone signal) so having these books is just awesome.
Another thing I got was a really nice macro camera for floral photography which has opened up some incredible doors. I’m obsessed with taking photos of native orchards which has aligned me with the Native Orchard Society of South Australia (NOSSA). We go out once a fortnight to do orchard surveying for landholders. It’s given me a confidence boost that I know what I’m doing, and my love for flora is on display when I’m banging on about orchards every single day! Having the money to do something like that – which I’ve never been able to do before – was just a really nice thing to do for myself.
The rest of the scholarship is there as backup money, it’s meant that when I need a day off from work (because I work casually) I can do it and not worry that I’m not going to have money.
The scholarship has really impacted me positively, I can’t thank you all enough. It’s an excellent opportunity for me.
Working toward my dream career
I’m already lucky enough to work in my chosen field for a company called Succession Ecology, doing a lot of the stuff that I’m learning at TAFE. I got the job a year into my studies. We collect around four to six tonnes of native seed a year which then gets used for large-scale revegetation projects around Australia. We also do biological surveys, which is where we go out and assess the land and survey it for a target species. It’s more on the ecology side of things which is what I want to do.
I’ve also got another job at the Botanic Gardens. I was doing seven-day weeks with study and the two jobs, but since receiving the scholarship I’ve now dropped down to five or six which is nice.
When I finish this TAFE course I’ll start a Bachelor in Marine and Wildlife Science at the University of Adelaide. I’m really looking forward to it. Once I’ve finished my degree I’ve already got a position lined up at my current job as an ecologist.
The looming threat of climate change does affect your anxiety. I’ve always had that in the back of my mind and didn’t know how to deal with it. Being in this field has taken that weight off my shoulders. There are so many solutions out there. There’s a lot of awareness now and I think people are starting to make better decisions and that makes me excited for the future. Doing what I’m doing, I’m having a small impact on South Australia’s nature.”
About the Tertiary Scholarship Program for students with an out-of-home care background
Out-of-home care is a statutory care arrangement for children under 18 who can’t live safely at home with their birth families due to chronic child abuse or neglect.
The state government becomes their legal guardian and places the child with an alternate caregiver: a foster carer, relative, or someone in their social network. They might also live in a group home under the care of paid staff, or independently in a private rental situation.
The Sisters of Charity Foundation Tertiary Scholarship Program provides financial support so recipients can afford study expenses (course fees; textbooks; technology; and attending workshops, networking events and internships) as well as the cost of living on their own with no parental support.
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