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Scholarship leads to career change

Sean Yorston had a lot on his plate.

In early 2022, Sean – a Birri and Ewamian man who grew up in Brisbane – was balancing full-time study, full-time work and starting a family.

His day job saw him working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Promotion, while he’d spend his nights and weekends chipping away at a Bachelor of Applied Science which he was studying online through Curtin University.

He was making the balancing act work, but a little help goes a long way. He’d never considered applying for further support, but a friend from Townsville recommended he look at the Indigenous Scholarships Program, a partnership between Shell’s QGC business and Waalitj Foundation.

“I’d never applied for a scholarship before and thought I’d give it a crack,” says Sean.

Sean was accepted into the program, which offers financial support and mentoring assistance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tertiary and vocational students.

“You can’t go past the financial support,” he says.

“I reckon one of the biggest barriers for a lot of Indigenous students that want to pursue academia is the financial side of things and the debt they incur when undertaking three- and four-year degrees.”

“That support is a massive help and takes that stress away from things like buying a new computer or putting it towards university resources.

“It definitely helped me having that peace of mind that you knew you had some kind of bucks coming in.”

In addition to financial support, the Indigenous Scholarship Program pairs recipients with an Indigenous mentor, providing recipients with holistic, one-on-one support as they undertake their studies.

“It was flexible, it was open communication, she basically checked in with me,” says Sean.

“Being that I was a little older and knew what I wanted and knew what I was doing, we just built a friendship.

“She’d check in every so often to make sure I was doing OK, offered any sort of support and anything else I needed to do my studies.”

In September 2022, as Sean neared the end of his studies, he was invited to the Indigenous Scholarship Leadership Conference at the Shell offices in Brisbane, bringing together scholarship recipients, mentors and the Shell team for a day of professional development and networking.

It was there that a meeting with the Shell team that led Sean to his new career path.

Over the following months he met with Shell’s logistics team who offered to bring him into the organisation, and in March 2023, he started a new role in the company’s Logistics Assurance Support, working in contracts and compliance in the company’s supply chain.

Sean credits the scholarship and his attendance at the conference with his new career move.

“[The Scholarship] provided that platform. The partnership between Shell and Waalitj Foundation – if they didn’t have that partnership then the opportunity for me to be in the doors at Shell definitely wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t be in the role I’m in now.”

The Indigenous Scholarship Program is a partnership between Waalitj Foundation and Shell’s QGC business. The Indigenous Scholarship Program will open again later in 2023, with the next Leadership Forum taking place in August. Find out more.

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