Success is not determined by your past but by your own perseverance. Gabby's story sounds like a Hollywood movie script, but we can assure you, it's real life. She didn't finish high school and as a disadvantaged youth, she found herself homeless. Decades later, after raising her own children, she's fulfilling her dream to study a law degree and fight for youth, Indigenous and human rights.
Why did you choose CDU for your law degree?
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's law courses 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 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 for Indigenous law students to connect with the 'real' legal world, such as the Bilata Legal Pathways Program.
I kept my dream alive and now I am studying my second university qualification. See every challenge as an opportunity to grow.
How are you making your dreams of a legal career a reality?
I started with a Diploma of Laws part time over two years, which gave me a 'taster' of the law and a general understanding legal issues. I'm now continuing on to do my Bachelor of Laws and hoping for the opportunity to do an Honours' paper. During my studies, I've worked casually 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 two very senior legal professionals - a Queen's Counsel and Senior Counsel. Through this, I've gained practical knowledge of the inner workings of Indigenous human rights law. I have also met with leaders in the NT legal system and 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 old and only able to complete half of my Year 9 studies. 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 qualified me for 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 now I am studying my second university qualification.
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 at CDU 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. At the request from magistrates, lawyers and other industry leaders, I've also shared my paper with them 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.