2014 Roberta Sykes Indigenous Scholar
The following excerpts from Nathan West's personal statement for the Roberta Sykes Scholarship explain his plans to influence a range of benefits for Indigenous Australia:
During my senior years of high school, I vividly recall the personal feeling that a tertiary education was not something which would be within my reach, not particularly due to a lack of academic performance or drive, but more based around a sense of misplaced entitlement and bewilderment regarding what was available to me.
Throughout my final year of high school, my educational support network presented a number of opportunities for tertiary study, namely the ATSI Entry Program at the University of Newcastle. Growing from this 'pre-tertiary' experience, I went on to successfully complete a Bachelor of Construction Management (Building) from the University of Newcastle, graduating with First Class Honours in 2009.
Approaching two years working in construction, I began to find a lack of fulfilment in the work and started to consider other opportunities. This led me to being offered a position to volunteer and live in Arnhem Land under the primary engagement of mentoring a number of Indigenous youth completing a Certificate in Construction.
Drawing on my own upbringing as an Indigenous youth on the East Coast, as well as my dislocated cultural experience abroad, I value this volunteer role as singularly the best decision I have made, both personally and professionally. It has been the key catalyst for my graduate study goals, and has lead me down a path of inspiration and refined focus regarding how I can move forward with a successful and fulfilling research career.
In undertaking this volunteer opportunity, I experienced first-hand the consequences that can occur when two inherently different cultures collide. In this instance, the contrast was provided by the presence of large uranium mines and the subsequent western economic structures associated with them. These impacts of contrasting cultures continued to be observed throughout my experiences in Malaysia, Borneo, Peru and remote parts of Canada.
Bringing these observations together, I have a passionate desire to understand the way in which our micro social and cultural environments create the individual lens through which we personally and culturally perceive the world around us. More particularly, the issues surrounding what happens when two or more lenses come together, on both a cultural and psychological level.
In applying these research interests to my knowledge and my draw to the Peruvian Amazon, I wish to explore an anthropological avenue regarding the specific interactions of Western cultural engagements in self-medicating activities with traditional Peruvian rituals, namely Ayahuascal.
Undertaking research of this vein with the support of a Roberta Sykes Scholarship will enable me to influence a range of benefits for Indigenous Australia, on both a micro and macro level.
A key tangible benefit of undertaking a research career at Oxford or Cambridge is my ability to be recognised in upholding the inherent cultural values of Indigenous Australians when it comes to matters impacting the conservation, continuation, and prosperity of our culture.
- Jessica Sullivan
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