The long road to education
Yanetta Nadredre, her two brothers, uncle and cousin are studying the Bachelor of Business Administration (Indigenous). They describe their uni commute (spoiler alert: it includes planes, trains, automobiles and more) and how they plan to use their new-found knowledge to inspire leadership back in their Far North Queensland (FNQ) communities.
From left: BBA students, David Abednego, Rodney Kiwat, Jasmine Bond, Yanetta Nadredre and Lyell Reuben. Photo by Hannah Jenkins.
2,800 kilometres, two planes, one train and multiple buses. That’s Yanetta Nadredre’s commute to university. Six times each year.
Living in the small mining town of Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula, Yanetta and four of her Queensland-based family members trek from their homes to Sydney to study the Bachelor of Business Administration (Indigenous).
Growing up in the largely Indigenous community of Bamaga, a tiny town 30 kilometres from the northernmost point of Australia, Yanetta witnessed many of the issues facing Indigenous communities. She says drug and alcohol abuse and soaring suicide rates are just the tip of the iceberg.
“Living in such an isolated place meant there were limited opportunities for us and university was not an option. But our mother was the exception.
“Always leading from the front, she raised nine kids (with the help of her siblings and parents), managed the local pub, set up the first women’s refuge in Bamaga and has since helped set up similar refuges on Thursday Island and the outer islands of the Torres Straits. She has devoted the past 22 years of her life working as a community education counsellor for the Department of Education on Thursday Island and in her hometown Bamaga where she now lives,” explains Yanetta.
“It was her decision to study a bachelor’s degree in adult education at UTS’s Jumbunna Institute in her 50’s that inspired us to believe we could pursue our own university experience. Watching her take-off to Sydney six times a year and then complete her uni assignments at home showed us that anything is possible with hard work,” she adds.
Following in their mother’s footsteps
Fifteen years later, Yanetta and her family are following in Margaret Cowley’s footsteps. Yanetta alongside her brothers, Rodney and Lyell, her cousin, Jasmine, and uncle, David are completing their first year of the Bachelor of Business Administration (Indigenous) or BBA as it’s known. They each leave their homes across Queensland to meet up in Cairns, before flying to Sydney for the course’s one-week lecture blocks.
“Depending on flight options, the journey usually takes each of us anything from two to three days of travel and overlay in Cairns. Between us we get boats, buses, cabs, planes and trains.”
And while Yanetta admits that juggling home life with the uni commute and workload is demanding, it’s an incredible experience to share with her family.
“We are each other’s greatest supporters, when someone feels overwhelmed, we remind ourselves how privileged we are to have this opportunity to bring this knowledge back to our communities.”
Before studying at UTS, Yanetta worked as an Indigenous support officer in Weipa’s local mining company. She also raised five children and ran her own business, a surf shop. That’s why Yanetta is so passionate about community leadership.
The students enjoying uni life in Sydney. From left: Rodney and his BBA classmates Daniel Rosendale and Semara Jose en route to class, David and Yanetta dining out and the UTS Library. Photos supplied by Yanetta Nadredre.
Commitment to uplifting community
As everything in Weipa revolves around Rio Tinto, Yanetta wants to be part of the conversations between local leaders and the company to ensure residents benefit from business and career opportunities, to help mitigate the many social issues the community is facing.
“This degree is about gaining as many skills and as much experience as I can, so I can go back to my community and impart this knowledge to not only my kids, but also the young people and local leaders.”
This passion for community leadership is shared by her family.
For Rodney, this is his second time to attend university. In 2012 he dropped out of a degree in secondary education at Griffith University after taking on the role of his parents’ full-time carer. Rodney now juggles university life with his role as a transshipment operator on a Bamaga mining site where he works 14-hour days, seven days a week, followed by seven 14-hour night shifts before a two-week break.
Rodney says, “Staying away from my family and balancing study has certainly taken its toll on my wellbeing, but I’ve chosen to stay on course. I know this degree will be worth it and I want to show my kids that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. I intend to take the skills I learn back to my community and be a role model by helping create business opportunities and employment avenues for my people,” explains Rodney.
Everything rises and falls on leadership and as many of our Indigenous leaders don’t have outside world experience; they don’t have the knowledge to make the bigger picture decisions. So we’ve got to lead by example, create our own way and inspire the younger generations to want more for themselves.
Leading by example
While Yanetta and her family acknowledge that many of her fellow community members don’t think anything of a university degree, they believe it speaks of great accomplishment and will allow them to better serve their communities.
As she explains, “Everything rises and falls on leadership and as many of our Indigenous leaders don’t have outside world experience, they don’t have the knowledge to make the bigger picture decisions. So we’ve got to lead by example, create our own way and inspire the younger generations to want more for themselves.”
Leading by example is something Yanetta is already doing, through her work managing monthly networking events for Weipa business owners to promote their offerings to community stakeholders such as Rio Tinto and the local emergency services. She’s also building connections with the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships to help business owners further build their capabilities.
It’s a bold ambition, but this family is resolute in their commitment to community. And in the meantime – they’re embracing all the offerings of student life.
“It’s great to see such a different world, I love doing things like getting my nails done and enjoying our lunches and dinners in spots like Ribs & Burgers and Max Brenner. Sydney living is worlds apart from our everyday lives – so it’s fantastic to experience that.
“I would strongly encourage other Indigenous students to consider this course. It’s incredible to learn from classmates and lecturers and impart our own knowledge to them. Last session, for example, we showed them how to do a yarning session as part of an assessment, which was an incredible experience to share. It’s a privilege to experience this learning and then take it back to our own worlds so we can better support and empower our people and communities,” Yanetta concludes.
The Bachelor of Business Administration (Indigenous) is a course designed for Indigenous Australian professionals. It is taught through a residential attendance mode of delivery so students can maintain their employment while studying.
Yanetta and her cousin Jasmine were granted the university’s Schiff Family scholarship, which provides $60,000 over three years to cover the associated travel and study costs.