Dani always thought that university wasn’t for her. “When I finished high school, I had a university entrance mark of 50 and this seemed to confirm the belief I had that I wasn’t cut out for academics.”

What Dani didn’t know at the time was that she was living with undiagnosed ADHD throughout her entire schooling which affected her ability to learn in a traditional classroom. “I felt like I’d clawed my way through the last years of school and couldn’t imagine ever choosing to study again. I was finally diagnosed with ADHD and I suddenly had a new way of viewing myself and the challenges I’d experienced in my life”, she said.

“After working for several years in different roles and industries I had always felt unfulfilled and was ready to try something new. I’d made attempts to start online university courses a couple of times but never made it more than a week in. Five years after I finished school and after trying everything from joining the Navy to working in bars, retail and admin jobs - I finally applied for the Open Foundation program.

“I was so nervous when I eventually started the program but for the first time in my life, I had found the right fit for my learning style. The support and flexible learning options offered by the University kept me engaged and eased me into study in a way that gave me confidence to apply for a degree,” said Dani.

Dani was awarded a Ma & Morley Scholarship and went onto complete a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours). She is now working as a Child and Family Practitioner and is also an advocate for mental health awareness. “I’m a huge advocate for mental health awareness and reducing the stigma faced by people with a mental illness or who are neurodiverse. I’ve been making my own resources on practical mental health tips that people can use at work or study with tips on how to stay well” she explains.

“Open Foundation completely changed my life. It’s given me the opportunity to do something I never thought I could. My world has opened up and I’ve seen how much I am capable of that I didn’t see before. On top of the degree, the friends I met at the University of Newcastle have become such an important part of my life and I am so grateful for all I have been able to experience,” said Dani.

Dani encourages others to apply for Open Foundation as a pathway to university. She explains “Study isn’t always easy, and I know what it’s like to think university is out of reach. For me though, the Open Foundation program gave me the support and confidence I needed to go on and study a degree”.

Learn more about Open Foundation
Dani Simmonette

Dani Simmonette

Dani always thought that university wasn’t for her until she applied for the Open Foundation pathway program.

The support and flexible learning options offered by the University kept me engaged and eased me into study in a way that gave me confidence to apply for a degree.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.