Jaymee Beveridge was 24 and a single mum when she started studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Wollongong.
Since then, she hasn’t strayed far from UOW as either a student or a member of staff, and this week was appointed to the newly created role of Vice-President (Indigenous Strategy & Engagement).
Jaymee, a proud First Nations’ woman with family ties to the Torres Strait and Palm islands, was the first in her family to attend university and followed her degree with a Master of Business Administration a few years later.
In 2018, she became the director of Woolyungah Indigenous Centre – which she will continue to lead – and in 2021, was appointed executive director (Indigenous Strategy).
“I am excited and am completely in touch with the enormity of the role,” she said.
“I come from a line of ancestors who spoke little because of the colour of their skin and they carried a great sense of shame for being the ‘other’. For many reasons, silence was their tool for survival.
“As a child, my ongoing birthday wish was to wake up with darker skin, until my grandfather reassured me that I had fair skin for a purpose. He told me I would sit in spaces where ‘white people’ would listen to me because they would see themselves. He guided me to use my voice for the betterment of those who need to be heard.
“I know with the creation of this role, UOW is sending a loud message about its commitment to Indigenous students, community, employment and social impact.”
UOW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Patricia Davidson, congratulated Jaymee on her appointment and said she would be a positive force for change and leadership for all staff and students.
“From the day that Jaymee turned up to UOW in her hatchback as a single mum and soon-to-be student, and then considered driving back out, something has drawn her to higher education. She is driven by a thirst for learning and a thirst for change,” Prof Davidson said.
“A true example of the power of higher education to open doors, Jaymee will continue to drive the university’s progress in creating a place where inclusion, respect, equity and diversity are at the heart of every decision.
“As many fellow Australians consider their vote in the upcoming referendum on the Voice to Parliament, it is a good opportunity to turn our thoughts to our own progress at UOW.
“Inclusivity, respect, equity and diversity are woven into the fabric of who we are. We have come a long way in the last few years in strengthening our ties to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities but there is always more to be done.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Sustainable Futures) Professor David Currow said Jaymee would bring her tireless passion and unique perspective informed, in part, by her own experiences as a first-in-family UOW graduate, to the role.
“I am delighted with Jaymee’s appointment. Jaymee has already demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, particularly in fostering community engagement, attracting and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and supporting them to the successful completion of their degrees,” Prof Currow said.
Last year, UOW formally embraced the Uluru Statement from the Heart, reflecting its commitment to its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders students and staff, and ongoing support for the process of truth-telling and Constitutional reform that underpins the Uluru Statement.
The University also launched the UOW Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2022-2024, which aims to build stronger relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples.