Jayde Frail knows the value of having an education better than anyone – it’s one of the reasons she’s so passionate about supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in her role as Manager of UC’s Ngunnawal Centre.
Having moved towns with her family four times between the ages of 13 and 17 – in a bid to connect with her extended paternal family – Jayde found it difficult to maintain a consistent education.
“My Dad is a Brewarrina man, and he was taken as a baby when he was only a few months old, along with five of his siblings,” Jayde says.
“They were taken and put into different foster homes and missions. He’s a great man – that experience can either make you or break you – and he’s such a hard worker, has always provided for the family, and we never went without.”
At the age of 17, Jayde decided to make the move to Canberra on her own.
It wasn’t until she was older that Jayde was able to really comprehend the impact all the moving around had on her education as a teenager.
“It had a terrible impact on my schooling,” she says.
“You’re worried about fitting in, so you are more concerned with making friends than learning.”
As a result, Jayde ended up completing her education through Tumut TAFE.
“I really think that helped me grow up quicker, and it gave me life skills similar to the skills you gain from being a university student,” she says.
Because of her experiences, Jayde knows exactly what it is like to be a young Aboriginal person who feels intimidated about taking steps to advance their education.
It’s why she’s so dedicated to supporting not only students who actively use the Ngunnawal Centre, but those who are considering a tertiary qualification.
Along with UC’s student outreach team, Jayde regularly visits local schools and Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) to share information about just how accessible higher education can be.
“I see a lot of those kids on our visits and they just don’t see university as a possibility,” she says.
“We walk in and they say ‘oh you’re from UC, can I have a free drink bottle?’, but they don’t think uni is for them.”
Jayde says she often hears prospective students say that they don’t believe they’re smart enough to come to university.
“I say to them ‘come, I’ll show you that you can do it’ – and I know that it’s true, because I was them,” she says.
“I would have been the same if someone came to me and said they’re from a university – I would have just zoned out.”
She’s all too aware of the influential position she’s in, and the difference she can make in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
It’s a position she loves and one she wants to stay involved in for a long time.
“I want to continue developing my leadership skills, and might even do more study,” she says.
“So I can lead better, and mentor the students.”
Words by Elly Mackay, photos by Tyler Cherry.