Cape York Partnership is a non-profit organisation that supports just that, empowering the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Cape York and Cairns to strive for value, freedom and prosperity, particularly through education. This inspired the creation of the Cape York Leaders Program that encourages talented First Nation leaders of all ages to reach their full potential.
With a current focus on academic leadership, this is achieved through providing students with scholarships to leading high schools and highly acclaimed tertiary institutions. Each graduate creates a ripple effect that benefits far more than just themselves, as they inspire, lead and build their families and communities, particularly within Cape York, but also across the rest of Australia.
To learn more about the experiences and aspirations of these talented leaders, we took the opportunity to interview University student, Shaquoiah Dingo who discusses her journey within the program. This includes her top highlights, challenges she’s overcome and what plans she has for after graduation.
RUBY: Hi Shaquoiah, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Shaquoiah Dingo and I’m from Hope Vale. I’ve been with the Cape York Leaders Program (CYLP) for eight years. I attended primary school at Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy's Hope Vale Campus and applied for the CYLP Scholarship. For secondary school I went to Clayfield College in Brisbane from 2014 in Year 7 through to Year 12 in 2018. I’m now in the process of completing a Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) through Edith Cowan University in Western Australia with the support of the CYLP tertiary scholarship.
RUBY: How did you get involved with the Cape York Leaders Program?
In primary school I knew I wanted to go to boarding school, but I never imagined CYLP would get me there. CYLP was a surprising opportunity that had supported my transition from Hope Vale into Clayfield College. Clayfield College was chosen for me and I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to attend such a prestigious school.
RUBY: What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced, and how did you overcome them?
My transition from primary school into boarding school was quite challenging. Moving away from home as a young 12-year-old was daunting. But, having CYLP there made the experience so much smoother, and they introduced me to many other Indigenous students my age who attended my boarding school and other schools.
I have made many friends and support systems by being a part of the Cape York Leaders Program, and they were the reason I could stick it out despite homesickness and the various challenges I faced.
RUBY: Can you tell us a bit about your university experience so far?
The program started preparing me for university in Year 11, so I knew the process and the expectations of uni. In the lead up to starting university, I’d been to countless uni open days and heard many people talk about their experience. Many alumni and previous students helped prepare me for future endeavours with their experiences and encouragement.
This mentoring is incredibly important to being able to successfully transition through the various stages of leaving your community, going away to boarding school and then through to university and beyond.
RUBY: Where do you see yourself after finishing your tertiary education? How has the Cape York Leaders Program added to this experience?
CYLP has changed my life for the better. They have succeeded in supporting me through primary, secondary and tertiary. Coming from a small community with limited options and pathways, CYLP has opened many different avenues for me to succeed. I wouldn’t be here today without the opportunities CYLP provided. Anything is possible now!