All university students are busy, but 2018 CDU Indigenous Valedictorian Mark Munnich takes having a hectic schedule to new heights. Mark was the NT Young Achiever of the Year in 2017, the Ambassador for the Office of Indigenous Student Support at CDU, is a volunteer with the Bilata Indigenous Pathways Program, a member of the Winkiku Rrumbangi Indigenous Lawyers Association, a Treasurer of the NT AIDS and Hepatitis Council and the youngest board member of Danila Dilba Health Service.
Mark is now also a Bachelor of Laws graduate and was nominated as Indigenous Valedictorian of his graduating class. Here is Mark's speech.
Good evening: Chancellor, Vice chancellor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and to my fellow Indigenous graduands. Before beginning, I would like to pay my respects to the Larrakia people, the traditional owners of the land that this event takes place. I acknowledge the Elders past, present and emerging, and I thank Aunty Bilawarra Lee for her Welcome to Country.
This evening we celebrate a momentous occasion in our lives in the presence of our families, friends, loved ones and peers – we have completed university!
We have worked extremely hard to get here. After the many sleepless nights we've spent studying, the endless juggle of managing study, work, and family commitments, everyone sitting here tonight can proudly say, “We have made it!” That said, tonight is not the end. Rather, it’s the beginning.
It’s what we do next, armed with our new qualifications, that will be our most important journey yet.
The decision to enrol was not an instant one; quite the opposite in fact
My journey to CDU
I dropped out of high school in Year 10. As a result, I never thought it would be possible that I’d be standing here today, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws. In all honesty, as a high school dropout, I didn't think I was eligible to go to university. Once I learnt that this isn’t the case, the actual prospect of enrolling and attending uni was a very daunting one!
While I was curious about pursuing my education, I was also very hesitant. The ever-patient Aunties at the Office of Indigenous Student Support (OISS) – Aunty Betty, Aunty Kathy and Aunty Trudie – listened to me say for years that I wanted to come to university, and I'd guess that no one was more shocked than them, when in 2015 I finally decided to enrol.
I want to personally thank the Aunties and the entire team at OISS, from the bottom of my heart, all for all you have done for me over the years; for the opportunities to share our stories as Indigenous Ambassadors, for supporting us throughout our studies, for your assistance with scholarship applications, and for always providing us with a culturally safe space at the Gurinbey Centre.
Gurinbey will always be my second home. I was frequently there after hours, and I’m sure people started to wonder if I lived there. This was especially true the night during an especially busy exam period, when I was woken up by security at 3AM, advising me that I needed to leave. Fair enough!
Being a student is not always smooth sailing
My experience at CDU
Studying at Charles Darwin University has taught me many things as a student and as a person. Everyone here tonight will know being a student is not always smooth sailing. During my time at CDU, I was juggling full-time work and full-time study. I was often studying very late at night, or in the early hours of the morning as the day broke. There were unforeseen family issues and more than once I had my heart broken, all of which make studying even harder. It wasn’t easy. Here’s what I learnt:
- Resilience: The ability to withstand anything that life throws me
- Determination: My passion in wanting to succeed
- Embracing opportunities: Taking things with two hands and running with it; and lastly
- Against all the odds, overcoming adversity and the ability to pick myself up when I get knocked down during the hard times.
To Charles Darwin University:
Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and all the staff here, I cannot thank you enough for providing me, and the many other Indigenous students the opportunity to study at this university. I will be forever grateful and indebted to this institution for what it has done for me, as I am sure it has done for the many others Indigenous students. Through our studies at CDU, we have acquired a unique set of skills and knowledge; we are now well prepared to go out and make positive change within our respective communities – and this change will bear the CDU footprint.
To my fellow graduands:
I congratulate and commend each and every one of you sitting here tonight, those who couldn’t make it, and those who supported us in getting here tonight. I wish you all the best with whatever you do in the future and hope to see you proudly receiving your qualification at graduation tomorrow.
To my family:
To my dad, mum, brothers and sisters and to my beautiful nephew Memphis; to my housemates who I now consider my family, I thank you all for pushing me, challenging me, inspiring me and picking me up in the most difficult times over the past 4 years.
Standing here tonight, I want you to know that I didn't do this just for me, but also all of you - because since day one you’ve all believed in me and you’ve all had my back. So thank you and I love you all.
If like Mark, you're interested in studying a Bachelor of Laws, visit the course page to learn how to apply. If you didn't finish high school or perhaps haven't studied in a while, CDU's Tertiary Enabling Program (TEP) is a great pathway into an undergraduate degree.