My name is Chicarnee Pickering and I am a proud member of the Larrakia tribe, traditional owners of the Darwin region. I am currently in my second last year of university, studying the Bachelor of Health, Sport and Physical Education at the University of Queensland. I am an active member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit and was selected to represent the university at the Indigenous Unigames in 2019 and 2021. As well as this, I represented the ATSI student community as one of the Goorie Officers in 2020, where I voiced the concerns of our collective and worked with the University of Queensland (UQ) Union to promote a culturally safe environment for our people I currently represent the university in AFL, playing in both premier league and reserve grade, and am sponsored by the club as a part of their Indigenous support program.
I’ve always been determined to pursue a career whereby I can inject a positive change among a diverse range of people and help my community in any way I can. It is for this reason that following the completion of my degree, I hope to return home to the Territory and teach health across multiple remote communities as a teacher or community development officer in Arnhem Land. I presently work with AFL Queensland as an Auskick Facilitator, and with Rackley Swimming as a Learn to Swim teacher. I am very passionate about working with children and believe that positive attitudes towards a healthy lifestyle are best adopted when introduced at a grassroots level. My mother is the only other person in our family to attend university, where she studied teaching before working at Katherine School of the Air for 30 years. It is through her experiences that I have learned the importance of education in remote and Indigenous communities, and how these early interventions can produce constructive outcomes. However, for this to succeed we must increase number of indigenous educators and provide an Indigenous perspective within the classroom. This, I believe, is vital for our journey towards reconciliation
As a past recipient of a scholarship at UQ, I am aware of the positive impact that it can have on a student’s overall well-being while studying away from home – Particularly during COVID19. During 2021 I struggled with my mental health, which impacted my academic ability throughout both Semester 1 and 2. However, in the past 4 months I have undergone new treatment and am on a Student Disability Support Plan with the university, which has drastically improved my well-being. I have recently moved out of my previous share-house and now occupy a unit alone, thus there has been an increased demand for finances. During the semester it is often difficult to juggle assessments and exams while trying to earn enough to pay living expenses. As well as this, I am having to pay for car registration, frequent psychologist visits, qualification updates (First Aid, CPR, etc) and physiotherapy from injuries incurred late last year.
If I am to receive this scholarship, I will be using the money to help with living expenses, fuel, textbooks and other learning materials. This will allow me to prioritise my university schedule over work hours, without placing myself in a financially stressful situation.
Semester one was filled with many challenges and rewards, both inside and outside of university.
I commenced my first semester of placement in UQ’s ‘Motor Active’ program, which provides students with the opportunity to work with children who have a cognitive or physical impairment and develop games to improve their motor skills. I also continued working with AFL Queensland as an Auskick Facilitator to deliver programs to various primary schools around Brisbane.
I was also selected the represent the university at Indigenous Nationals, where our team Goorie Berrimpa placed 1st in netball and 2nd overall. Following Indigenous Nationals, I then returned home to Darwin in the Northern Territory to volunteer as a senior carer for the Goanna Park Freedom Camp with Variety NT. This 7-day experience involved caring for 30 kids between the ages of 15-18 with impairments such as ASD, Down Syndrome and ADD. This was by far the highlight of my semester and one of the most rewarding experiences I had to date.
While my plate was very full, I managed to use my time effectively and balance university with my external activities. Despite the many trials and tribulations, I still managed to pass all my subjects with flying colours and am hoping to continue this success in Semester 2.