Two Aboriginal students from Perth have been honoured with an award recognising the state’s top two performing Aboriginal students.
The Rob Riley Memorial Prize, named after the late Aboriginal human rights advocate, was awarded on Friday to Ashley Maroney and Kienan Davis, two Perth public school students.
Ashley Maroney, a Koori and Bardi woman from Broome and Wollongong, won the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) category. She is studying political science and international relations and hopes to one day be a part of the government.
Having started university this year, Ms Maroney told NITV News she was stunned to find out there weren’t many Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students at her Perth University.
“At my uni there aren’t many Indigenous kids, so me going is a really big thing, and breaking the stereotype is something that I seek to do. To show people we [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders] can do this, we're not who we think we are. We can further our study and seek further education,” she said.
Despite being told she had won the award in January, Ms Maroney said she was still in shock.
“It was a bit of surprise. It hasn’t sunk in for a while until I got it … It means a lot because I had worked hard throughout the year,” she told NITV News.
The John Curtin College of the Arts student studied six ATAR subjects in order to get into university and chase her dream.
The oldest of five younger siblings, Ms Maroney is the first person in her family to graduate from high school.
“A lot of my family didn’t or couldn’t finish school and education is important. My whole family is very encouraging,” she said.
Keinan Davis, a proud Noongar Whadjuk man, was also awarded the Vocational Education and Training (VET) category. He is the first male in his family to graduate.
Although he grew up in Perth, his dad always took him back to Northam, located on the outskirts of Perth.
“Receiving this Rob Riley Award was overwhelming, the family is very happy,” he told NITV News.
“The grandmother took the word back to the hometown and they were excited and they were congratulating my grandmother, and dad was telling his family as well. So the word got around quick.”
Mr Davis said he feels privileged to have had his family’s support and strongly emphasised the importance of education.
“Behind the scenes, they (my family) are the ones who made me go. I could have been like the brothers out on the streets."
According to Change the Record, Indigenous men are twice as likely to be found in prison rather than at university.
Mr Davis said he was happy to know that he was breaking the mould.
“I feel privileged, they (family) know their uncle and big brother has done it and they can do the same,” he explained.
The Rob Riley winner hopes to one day become a paramedic and go back to his community and help his people.
Western Australia’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said winning the Rob Riley Memorial Prize is a ‘great honour’.
“Both Ashley and Kienan have very bright futures ahead of them and should be proud of their achievements so far,” he said.