18 April 2024

Record number of Housing Trust tenants awarded Tylah West Education Scholarship

| Kellie O'Brien
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Tara de Koning Tylah West scholarship recipient

Tara de Koning, pictured with her daughter Hayley Fuller, was one of the 53 Tylah West Education Scholarship recipients. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

A record 53 Housing Trust tenants aged five to 50-plus were awarded the annual Tylah West Education Scholarship this week (15 April), marking a significant increase from the first three scholarships in 2016 and more than doubling last year’s number.

The program was established in 2016 in memory of Tylah West (who was part of Housing Trust’s Aboriginal traineeship program) to alleviate educational cost barriers for Housing Trust tenants and enhance access to training and workplace opportunities.

Housing Trust CEO Amanda Winks said this year’s increase in the number of recipients underscored the scholarship’s growing significance, especially at a time when a rise in the cost of living often saw people’s first option being to not participate or defer education.

“We know that once housing has been established as the foundation for people’s lives, there are so many opportunities for them to continue to be empowered in other ways and I think education is just a really wonderful one,” Amanda said.

“We know that a safe, secure home and access to education go hand in hand to build the foundations for empowerment and positive growth.”

She said the results were proven, with last year’s group having 90 per cent of its participants continuing with their education.

“The cut through and achievement of people actually committing to what they’ve set out to do is really quite high,” she said.

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“In what has been a financially challenging year for so many, we are thankful to have the ongoing support of our donors and sponsors who make the scholarship program possible.

“It means we’ve been able to open the funding for more people than we’ve been able to in the past.”

Major sponsors for the second consecutive year include South32 and Commonwealth Bank, with funds also raised at Housing Trust’s annual golf day.

She said recipients had applied for funding to offset the costs of school, university and TAFE fees, laptops, equipment, internet services, tools, textbooks and safety gear.

One such recipient was Fernhill resident Tara de Koning who, now in her 50s, was doing a PhD at the University of Wollongong on social and affordable housing and the links to mental and physical health, along with the feeling of wellbeing.

“Serendipitously, I got referred to a woman at the School of Geography at UOW – Dr Nicole Cook who is now my PhD supervisor – and we worked together last year to develop a research proposal which got accepted in October,” she said.

“Then I got government funding this January.”

Michelle Woods Tylah West

Michelle Woods speaking at the Tylah West Education Scholarship ceremony after receiving one of the scholarships. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

She said that with the addition of the Housing Trust scholarship, her end goal was contributing to policy.

“In parliament, they are still discussing social affordable housing, but nothing’s been done,” she said.

“It’s figuring out how to move away from the [housing] market focus into more the human rights aspect.

“The question is, if you put more funding into affordable housing, will there be less demand on the health system?”

She said the scholarship would go towards equipment to increase her productivity.

“It’s been a huge leap getting back into study because I graduated in 2005, so things have changed and technology has changed,” she said.

Another recipient was Koori woman Michelle Woods, with the scholarship allowing her to obtain employment and assist with her children’s education.

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“This scholarship has helped me financially, but also has had a butterfly effect, with the extra assistance I received I’ve passed on to my children,” Michelle said.

“I had the privilege of meeting Tylah and, oh, such a beautiful and respectful person.

“So I was astounded at the nomination, but to win this is also exciting.”

Tylah’s grandmother Mary Austin was part of the ceremony.

Now in its eighth year, the program has supported 175 tenants and distributed almost $206,000 in funds.

Housing Trust also announced its second University of Wollongong Opportunity Scholarship recipient, Brodyn Browne, who will be studying for a Bachelor of Arts/Law.

The scholarship application is open to first year students beginning their studies at the University of Wollongong who at the time of application live in social housing in the Illawarra or Shoalhaven.

The golf day raising funds for the education scholarships returns to Wollongong Golf Club on 8 November.

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Tara de Koning12:35 am 18 Apr 24

I just want to clarify – the person referred to as my sponsor is actually my PhD supervisor, Dr Nicole Cook. The speech given by Koori woman Michelle Woods was beautiful and reinforces the priviledge to get nominated. for this scholarship. This opens doors and empowers the individual to add to their ongong lived experience. Thank you to the Housing Trust for providing thesse opporunities.

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