Just like Doctor Pearl Duncan, Kirsty-Leigh Young has a passion to change Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives through education.
The 27-year-old, who identifies as a Torres Strait Islander, was one of this year’s Department of Education and Training Pearl Duncan Teaching Scholarship recipients.
“People become teachers because they have had that influence somewhere in their past,” Kirsty-Leigh says.
“For me, having those teachers who have helped and supported me, I want to be that teacher for other young Indigenous students.”
Her passion for teaching is something that was sparked after she left school, following a mixture of experiences and the loss of her grandfather, a Bundjalung man, who died at the age of 65. She feels deeply about the opportunities he missed out on because he was Aboriginal.
“I was really close to him and for me, understanding the history, and the policies and the legislation which stopped him from being able to have those opportunities and the flow-on effect through the generations down to myself, that’s where I have really understood how they affect an individual.
“That is where I want to make a difference because I can see how it affects individual lives.”
“Now that I am more aware of the value of education and the importance of it, I have really come into an awareness of the educational opportunities that Indigenous students miss out on.
Kirsty-Leigh, who has always had a passion for working with children, has her heart set on working in the Torres Strait, where she has already completed a practicum.
“I loved it, my husband came up there for one weekend, he loved it … It is just amazing,” she says.
“It’s also me wanting to get back to my own self as well; wanting to get back to my own roots.”
While she hasn’t considered yet how she will spend her scholarship money, Kirsty-Leigh has thought long and hard about what it means.
“Emotionally, I just feel really proud to be able to say that I am receiving this scholarship under Pearl’s name.
“She is all for that (changing Indigenous lives through education) and I am really grateful.”