Changing lives

Picture of Alison Whittaker

Pictured: UTS Law Equity Scholarship recipient, Alison Whittaker

UTS graduates are digging deep to provide life-changing opportunities for students who might otherwise not have the chance to study at university.

For many students, starting at university can be a daunting experience, coupled with the pressure and commitment it takes to make it to graduation. But the generosity of the UTS alumni community is easing the financial burden of study for current students in need through their support of scholarship programs.

Their generosity has had a remarkable impact for Alison Whittaker, a Gomeroi woman from Gunnedah in north-west New South Wales, who moved to Sydney to study law at UTS in 2011.

“Receiving the scholarship changed my life. 
It helped me transition from high school to university.” – Alison Whittaker.

“For Indigenous students, it’s actually like moving to another country,” Whittaker explains.

During high school, Whittaker had never expected that she would get the marks to study law. But qualify she did, and in the face of relocating away from her family and familiar surroundings without any financial support, Whittaker took the plunge and enrolled at UTS.

“I had only $600 to my name. I felt like I was very drastically under-equipped,” she confesses.

Whittaker found out she had been awarded the UTS Law Equity Scholarship just three days before she was due to arrive in Sydney to find somewhere to live. At the thought of the extra support the scholarship would provide, she was relieved and overwhelmed.

“It was such a relief. I felt it really marked a threshold that I was stepping over in order to change my life and change the life of the community around me,” she says.

Whittaker graduated with first class honours in 2016, and is now completing her Master of Laws at Harvard Law School in the US after being awarded the prestigious 2017 Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship.

On reflection, Whittaker says that the first four years of her degree would have been a completely different experience had it not been for the Law Equity Scholarship.

“During that time, I didn’t have to work. It was a tremendous relief to be able to have time to think clearly about what I wanted to study, how I wanted to do it, and where I needed to focus. It really shaped where eventually my career would end up,” she explains.

This year, to commemorate the Law Faculty’s 40th anniversary, the law alumni community has come together to support more students like Whittaker through the Law Equity Scholarship. UTS graduates have generously given over $100,000 in 2017 for scholarships to help current students reach their potential.

Inspired by Alison’s story, fellow UTS law graduate Rebekah Giles says she wants to help others reach their dreams by giving back to students starting their career journey into law.

“My hope is that scholarship recipients will feel more than just financially supported. Ideally they will feel strengthened and inspired by the collective sentiment of a group of strangers willing them to succeed,” says Giles, a Partner at law firm Kennedys.

Whittaker says she is enormously appreciative of the support of the alumni community. “Receiving the scholarship changed my life. It helped me transition from high school to university, and because of it, I’m also making the transition from Australia to Harvard Law School. I couldn’t have achieved this without this support.”