Carnarvon Community College graduate Rhianna Couzens is on track for a bright future having last year successfully completed her Undergraduate Degree in Anthropology and Indigenous History and now undertaking the newly created Masters in Heritage Studies at the University of Western Australia.
Rhianna, who was born and raised in Carnarvon, descends from the Nhanda and Wajarri Traditional Owner groups from the Murchison region of Western Australia.
“I loved growing up in the country playing with my cousins on the banana plantations, and spending time with my old Aunties and Uncles, especially my Auntie Gwen who would always tell me stories of our old people and our country,” Rhianna said.
“But when it came to school I always found it seemed to take me extra time to understand what we were being taught and as a result I didn’t get very good marks.
“By Year 12 I was just an average student, but Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success co-ordinator John West knew I could do better so he shamed me to join the program.”
Managed by the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation and supported by the Department of Education and Rio Tinto, the Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success program provides after school tuition and individual mentoring support and case management in cooperation with schools.
The Foundation’s program has now been supporting Aboriginal students since 1997 and has helped almost 730 students go on to University, apprenticeships, traineeships or straight into jobs.
“I finally joined the Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success program and immediately loved it,” Rhianna said. “I loved the study and had fun working alongside the other Indigenous students in the program.”
“After being accepted in the program I attended an orientation course to help me work out what I might want to do at University, so it got me thinking about all the possibilities I hadn’t previously considered.”
Once Rhianna started her Bachelor of Arts at UWA, she was offered a cadetship at Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto was one of the first private sector organisations to support the Commonwealth Government’s National Indigenous Cadetship Project (NICP) which is designed to provide financial assistance and employment support to Indigenous tertiary students.
“For the past three years I have studied at UWA while undertaking work experience with Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s Communities Division working in the area of Indigenous employment and heritage,” Rhianna said.
“I have loved working with Rio Tinto as they treat their cadets really well, they’re flexible and they let us work in different areas in the company.
“My dream career would be working with and alongside other Indigenous people to help Indigenous Australians first and foremost, but one day maybe other Indigenous communities around the world.”
Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation CEO Neil Jarvis said RhIanna’s success demonstrated how natural ability, combined with support and encouragement, could open up a world of possibilities.
“Rhianna is one of 730 Indigenous students who have taken part in the Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success program and gone on to tertiary education, trainee or apprenticeships or straight into the workforce,” Mr Jarvis said.
“It would not be possible for us to run our programs in 28 locations across Australia without companies such as Rio Tinto, which has supported us since we began in 1997.
“Rhianna is one of many students who not only benefit from Rio Tinto’s funding of our program but continues a relationship with the company after graduating school and starting her university studies through the Indigenous Cadetship Program.
“The Foundation’s approach is based on the premise that it takes a community to educate a child including commitments from the student, their family, the school and key organisations in the local community like Rio Tinto,” Mr Jarvis said.
“This relationship does not just end when the student receives their graduation certificate but continues as they go on to find their place in the world.”
Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation – Lisa Holland-McNair 0407 364 300
Rio Tinto – Rebecca Murphy 0419 933 631
Photo: Students Bianca Howard and Rhianna Couzens at the University of Western Australia.