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I'm the first in my family to go to uni

This article appears in:
Pathways to Uni, Student Stories, From High School to Uni, Law, Indigenous Futures

Beth Cooper is a proud Wiradjuri woman from Canberra; passionate about Australian history, design, communication and solving community development issues. Last year, she moved to Darwin to pursue her life goals; kick-starting her study dreams with CDU's free Tertiary Enabling program.

Coming from a line of strong women, Beth is the first person in her family to go to university and is currently pursuing a combined Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws degree in the hope to become a workers’ rights advocate. We caught up with her to celebrate her first High Distinction grade and to hear about her story. 



I wanted a fresh start

Before moving to Darwin, I was looking online at different universities, and came across CDU’s pathways to get into uni. I liked the flexible study options offered and knew that the Tertiary Enabling Program (TEP) would help me to brush up on study skills like English, Maths and Computing.

Darwin and CDU seemed like the perfect place for me. It was one of those things that sort of fell into my lap, just as I needed it. I started TEP in March 2017 while working full time and trying to balance life in a new city.

I didn't go straight into uni after high school

High school was a rough time, with different things going on with my family. Back then, I just needed to throw myself into working life.

I found a job as a receptionist in a law firm: this was good because it helped to pay the bills while I was working in an area I was interested in and passionate about. The job gave me exposure to law, and I was surrounded by people that were studying law as well. This experience was the catalyst that motivated me to go to uni.

I want to break the cycle


My grandmother and her family immigrated from Ireland to Australia and first settled in Captains Flat in regional NSW. They moved to Canberra, she met my pop and they had seven kids. My nan was a cleaner: she would take all her kids along and they would all have their own little jobs to do.

When I was growing up, my mum was also a cleaner. She would take me, my sister and nan, and we would go do the cleaning jobs together. During those times, I saw my mum really struggle, as she was a single mum raising two kids. At some point, she had three cleaning jobs just to get us into a good school. I have so much admiration for my mum and grandma.

Going on jobs with them made me realise that I didn’t want to be a cleaner and struggle like they did. My nan was a cleaner, my mum is a cleaner and so is my sister. I want to break that cycle.

My mum always said that education is key

My mum really pushed me to strive for bigger and better things in life. I would tell her how proud I was of her for how hard she worked, but she would always tell me: “I don't want to see you kids breaking your back. I want my kids to go to uni, get a good education and get a good job.”

That's why I'm the first of my family to go to university. I’m doing this because I want to have a life where I'm not struggling. When I have kids, I want to be able to provide them with things that I didn’t have.

I want to push myself to be able to create a better life for me and the future generations, including my kids’ kids and so on.

Uni is where I am meant to be

What I like the most about uni is learning new things and the knowledge that I gain from that. I like to be able to challenge people's views (like you would in court), having a new perspective on the world, understanding why things are the way they are, and forget about that one single-minded opinion you developed growing up.

I just love to be around like-minded people, who are trying to create a better future for themselves and the world they live in. It's so motivating. With uni, I get this feeling that it’s where I'm meant to be and it just makes me happy.


If, like Beth, you are looking for an alternative pathway to a university degree and want to pursue your study dreams, get started with CDU's free Tertiary Enabling Program.

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This article appears in:
Pathways to Uni, Student Stories, From High School to Uni, Law, Indigenous Futures

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