Long-shot of Bobby studying out doors, with his laptop and a stack of books

Your Stories – Meet Bobby

Name: My name is Bobby and I am a proud Kamilaroi man

Degree: Bachelor of Social Science and Law (Combined)

Why did you decide to study this degree?

I was the third member of my family to complete the HSC. I always knew I wanted to go to university but didn’t know what to study. The initial push started 6 weeks after completing school. I went to a careers advisor and said look, I want to get into university. I wasn’t aiming for an ATAR, I had low grades. I’m a First Nations descendant with a disability coming from a low SES demographic, and he said “University doesn’t accept people like you”. I believed him for 6 years.

I was doing bar work at the time, my brother and I who both worked together were asked if we were “f#&ked in the head”. My brother is on the autism spectrum and has ADHD. This doesn’t make him any less of a worker. This wasn’t right, it was discrimination. I confronted my boss and wasn’t taken seriously so I contacted 64 law firms around Newcastle and the Central Coast. Of those 64, 10 of them told me don’t even bother, there’s no money in it. So that’s where my passion started.

I started contacting disability organisations and found Children and Young People Disability Network Australia (CYDA), a Melbourne based organisation who connected me with the right people. Long story short I got the taste for advocacy. I needed a degree to get where I wanted and needed to be. Not just a basic degree because the odds were already against me, I needed a piece of paper to say my voice mattered.

Bobby with Dean Schafer from the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) for his scholarship

Have you used any support services through the University?

I have used support services around the University such as Accessibility and Wollotuka. They have worked wonders, but support services are a hit and miss. We are all up against a broken system. There is a system to be played and you must play the system at its best.

What change would you like to see in the University?

There should be less systemic racism, neglect and discrimination right across the board. I sit on several panels across the University regarding equity, diversity and inclusion as well as the accessibility action plan. As a disability advocate for First Nations people, simple things such a closed captions and adding ramps in are simple fixes. The acknowledgements of First Nations people with disabilities are zero. Being black and disabled, we are sitting at a double disadvantage.

We live in 2022, why are we still fighting, what are we still trying to prove? How can I be that voice for my younger siblings who have ASD, PTSD and anxiety and encourage them to go to university and live their full life? Am I setting them up to fail? It needs to change. We are working against a system that is broken.

Are we going to see this change during our time in university? Probably not. But if we start planting those seeds and encouraging people to water them, it will blossom into a beautiful tree. And once that tree is established, it’s not going anywhere.

Bobby at a charity dinner for the Smith Family

Where do you want to take this degree?

I’m living it now, working my dream job as a First Nations Disability Community Advocate for First People Disability Network (FPDN). I’ve experienced lots of trauma the last three years, losing both parents, becoming the legal guardian of my three younger siblings and coming to university. I want to finish my law degree and be the voice that’s needed. We need more people who come from an intersectional field to stand up, be that voice and lead the way for others to come forward.  I want to be that role model for my siblings as their legal guardian and for the future generations of First Nations people.

Bobby studying outside the Hive café at Callaghan campus

Do you have any advice for others?

Always believe and achieve. You know the world’s up against you but at the end of the day you need to know within yourself that you’re doing the right thing. If you’re happy with yourself and what you’re achieving, you’ll move forward and push through. If I can do it, so can everyone else.

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