Success is not determined by your past but by your own perseverance. Gabby Hill's story sure sounds like a Hollywood movie script, but we can assure you, it's real life. Gabby didn't have a chance to finish high school: as a disadvantaged youth, she found herself homeless. A few decades later, after having brought up her own children, she fulfilled her dream to pursue a degree in Law. Now she is ready for her graduation day and planning to go even further and do her Honours degree, all that while being an Indigenous mentor and a passionate human rights advocate.
Hear about her inspirational experience from the CDU alumnus herself.
Why did you choose CDU?
I am a Darwin resident and previously worked as Indigenous Remote Area Coordinator for Youth and Community Services Top End. I love remote work, especially with youth, and CDU offered the best opportunity to continue my career in this area.
What did you like most about studying with CDU?
The connections you make both on campus and off campus. The amazing support you receive from those studying with you and your lecturers is outstanding. The programs for Indigenous students are second to none and offer opportunities such as the connection between the Bilata Legal Pathways Program for Indigenous law students and the ‘real’ legal world.
What do you do now?
I am continuing on to do my Bachelor of Law and hoping for the opportunity to do an Honours paper. Although my formal graduation is mid 2018, I have already gained casual employment with fantastic organisations such as North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) Bilata program, which has seen me travelling across the Top End talking with school youth about a career in Law.
I have been blessed to work with both the fabulous Felicity Gerry QC and John Lawrence SC. This allowed me to access practical knowledge of the inner workings of my chosen field of Indigenous human rights law.
I have met with leaders in our field, Leanne Liddle (Department of Public Prosecutions), Judge Jenny Blockland and Justice Michael Kirby, to name a few. These connections are invaluable to a legal student.
"Never give up, never give in. You are capable of more than you have ever dreamed of."
What advice would you give your younger self?
This question is difficult as I was homeless when I was 14 years of age, and only able to complete half of my Year 9 high school study. However, when my children were older I went back to education, gaining a Certificate IV in Youth Work/Social Work and Indigenous Primary Health Care. These were the catalysts that gained me entry into CDU.
As a 50-year-old Indigenous woman, I tell people that my dream of studying Law became possible because I never gave up, I never gave in, I kept my dream alive, and here I am about to attend my first university graduation ceremony.
If I had any advice for my younger self, it would be to always remember that it’s not about where you come from that matters; what matters is where you're heading to.
How do you give back?
I am an Indigenous mentor with the CDU School of Indigenous Knowledge, and I represented the University on the New Colombo Plan with the University of Jakarta.
I have also presented my paper on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder relating to Indigenous incarceration rates of Australia at various workshops, and at the request from magistrates, lawyers and other industry leaders, shared my paper with them in effort to build effective collaborations for awareness and changes to unrecognised federal laws.
I continue to advocate for positive changes to federal laws that directly affect people of all races. I am a board member for CDU Student Support Association, Board member for Higher Education studies and Board member for Winkiku (Bilata/NAAJA). I have gained scholarships to attend the Native Title and Indigenous Legal Conference in Darwin and Adelaide, and worked with some of the best legal minds in the industry.
I was also awarded runner up in the Australian Institute of Management Awards (NT student category) 2017.
"It’s not about where you come from that matters; what matters is where you're heading to."
Lastly, is there anything else you would like to share about your experience at CDU?
Never give up, never give in. You are capable of more than you have ever dreamed of. See every challenge as an opportunity to grow. Be persistent. There is no shame in asking for help: I have always found support in my family, friends, tutors, lecturers and mentors. They have been my bedrock; allow them to be yours before, during and after graduation. Take every opportunity with both hands.
You can study an Associate Degree, Diploma, Bachelor or Master of Law online or on campus. Find out about how you can get involved in Law at CDU.