Growing up in Alice Springs, Shaun Wright never dreamed of going to university in Australia’s most populous city. In fact, at the time, he “didn’t really know anything about Sydney, except for that it existed.”
Today, the proud Nyul Nyul descendant is a successful UNSW Sydney graduate and current master's student, passionate about using business as a tool to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
But Wright’s journey from the desert heart of Australia to postgraduate study at the UNSW Kensington Campus was one he never could have predicted.
“It was interesting growing up in Alice Springs,” he said. “Particularly seeing the contrast between the two worlds; that of the Aboriginal community and then non-Aboriginal populations, including foreigners from Pine Gap [US military base].”
“There was also probably less to do there in Alice Springs than the big cities, but I knew that Mum had aspirations for us to move to a different city for my high schooling.”
In his teens, Wright and his family moved to Adelaide. There he continued to foster his love for education, ensuring he maximised all opportunities available to him in his new environment.
However, even as he neared the end of high school, Sydney remained a “foreign place” far from his mind.
Wright remembers how a web search changed all that.
“I didn’t know that there were pre-programs or Indigenous pathways at universities,” he said. “But I stumbled across UNSW’s Indigenous pre-program website after doing a search online and that really piqued my interest.”
The complex world of higher education was daunting for Wright, particularly as the first member of his family to attend university. Yet, after a call with the Indigenous Business Program Manager about the pre-program, Wright knew UNSW was the perfect place for him.
A pathway to success
The Indigenous Preparatory Program, run by Nura Gili and UNSW faculties, offers Indigenous students a taste of life at UNSW in specific Business, Education, Law, Medicine, Social Work or Science and Engineering pathways.
The intensive three-week residential program acts as a valuable stepping stone for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to their dream careers.
“Those early stages of university are a big determining factor for the rest of a person’s journey,” Wright said.
“When people find their true passions, they go on to become future game-changing leaders.
For me, I saw there is an underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in business, and also how business was a big driver for change. So, I thought, how can I position myself so I can make an impact that way?”
Shaun Wright with his family (right) and Rebecca Harcourt (left)
Wright successfully completed the pre-program in business and soon packed his bags for Sydney to start a Bachelor of Commerce – a long way from the red dust and extreme heat of Central Australia experienced in his youth.
“I found it extremely exciting when I first moved to Sydney because I was so young and it’s such a different environment. I almost felt as if I was in a movie or on holiday,” he said.
“At the same time, this was a big challenge. Sydney moves a lot faster than the cities I had previously lived in.”
Study with impact
Today, alongside studying a Master of Commerce, Wright works at Indigitek, a platform for educational institutions and the corporate world to connect with ambitious Indigenous professionals, students and entrepreneurs.
The experience of networking with other like-minded Indigenous students and business people has been invaluable, further reinforcing the path carved out for him all those years ago.
Looking back at his journey at UNSW, Wright can’t believe some of the unique opportunities he has gained, such as being sponsored by the Business School to attend a conference in Vancouver, Canada.
“In Canada, it was truly inspiring meeting Indigenous people from around the world that are so passionate about driving change,” he said.
“It's having experiences like that, and being surrounded by very talented people with extremely sharp minds, which makes UNSW such a motivating environment to be in.”
It may have been a long road across the country to get to where he is today, but with an insatiable desire to drive real change, there is no slowing Wright down anytime soon.
“I really enjoy working with people and creating strong relationships,” he said. “And I know that entrepreneurship can play a vital role in creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, so I want to continue working in that area while I study.
But, I am really fascinated by psychology and how that intersects with business and commerce too. That’s the space I’d love to explore next.”
Applications for the Indigenous Preparatory Program close 27 September 2019.