Two students from a remote community in far north Queensland will have their studies at Bond University entirely paid for thanks to an anonymous donor.

The opportunity arose after the donor took part in the Gold Coast university’s annual Yarning Up trip to far north Queensland.

Lockhart River residents, Jamila Piva and Zali Hobson, will first undertake a university preparation program and a Diploma of Arts at Bond University before considering further studies.

A 12-hour, mostly dirt road drive to Cairns in the dry season, Lockhart River is one of the most isolated communities in Queensland, along eastern Cape York.

In the wet season, residents must fly into the community – setting them back $600 one way.

After Piva and Hobson graduate, they will become the second and third people to gain university qualifications in their community.

Lockhart River Mayor, Wayne Butcher, said the last graduate obtained their degree over a decade ago.

“We’ve been working with Bond for several years to get to this point and we hoped to get one student there but now we’ve got two, so that’s even better,” Mayor Butcher said.

“It means a lot to the community. We always talk about the importance of education but Year 12 seems to be the end of the road for the majority of our kids.”

The Mayor said it’s often challenging for high school graduates to leave home to study, proving a major barrier to tertiary education in the community.

“One of the core values in Indigenous culture is the family value. We love to live together as a close-knit family,” Mayor Butcher said.

Luckily, Piva and Hobson already have experience living away from their community, having boarded in Toowoomba for their high school education.

“We both went to boarding school at Downlands College … we’re excited to attend [university] together too,” Piva said.

As the anonymous donor’s kindness adds to the pool of scholarships awarded to Indigenous students by Bond University, Vice Chancellor and President, Tim Brailsford, said he is proud 95 students have been awarded tuition scholarships since 2012.

Bond University’s commitment to Indigenous tertiary education is reflected in their data, with their Indigenous participation rate in 2018 being 2.54 percent compared to the national average of 1.89 percent.

“Our association with Lockhart River has opened up our eyes and I trust these new scholarships will open up the eyes of two fantastic young Indigenous Australians,” Professor Brailsford said.

“These scholarships would not be possible without the generosity and outstanding support of an anonymous donor.”

Yarning Up, the program that sparked the scholarship donation, takes supporters of Bond University on a yearly trip to an Indigenous community.

Elders and community leaders are involved with the program, taking part in cultural presentations, discussing challenges and achievements, and facilitating one-on-one conversations between supporters and Elders, parents, grandparents and community leaders.

By Hannah Cross