Nathan Bassani worked hard at school and got himself a job with a six-figure salary. Now the young indigenous man is inspiring others to give it a try too.
Almost half of the residents in the Aboriginal community Nathan Bassani grew up in are unemployed.
And those who are lucky enough to have a job earn generally earn little more than $220 on average a week.
But life has turned out dramatically differently to how it should have for Mr Bassani.
At 27, he’s on a six-figure salary and is living in a four-bed property he bought at 22.
He’s also happily married to his teenage sweetheart Zandalee, 28, with whom he shares a daughter Kleo, 3.
The trajectory of Mr Bassani’s life changed when he was parachuted on a scholarship into one of Brisbane’s top private schools.
Up until then he had been going to the local state school in his home of Yarrabah, 55km from Cairns in Far North Queensland, which only caters for children up to Year 10.
For those wanting to continue through to Year 12, they have to travel 50 minutes one way.
The long commute can see motivation wane, Mr Bassani said.
When he won a scholarship through the Australian indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) he “took the opportunity with both hands”.
“I’ve done a lot of things I never thought I would do, like moving away from home,” he said.
“Knowledge is power. It changed my life completely.”
He said as a boarder at Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane everyone was there to learn, there were no distractions and he got lots of support from teachers who believed in him.
After school he got an apprenticeship as a diesel fitter and put in some hard graft in the mines, where he was able to save up for a deposit for his house.
Not every child in Yarrabah, which has a population of less than 3000, can or would like to get a scholarship to go to boarding school, but seeing others succeed can only be a good thing, according to AIEF chief executive Andrew Penfold.
“One of the things people question is the value of education,” Mr Penfold said.
“To see a real example like Nathan, who has done something amazing in his life, it creates a ripple effect of high expectations whether that be for his siblings or others in the community.”
AIEF supports around 350 students a year through scholarships, with the funding coming from private business and matched by government.
Born to Leslie, a local council worker and Petrina, a community mentor, Mr Bassani is the second of five children, all were given scholarships.
Mr Bassani, who was also a former semi-professional league player, is now a mechanical engineer at a plant called Queensland Magnesia in Rockhampton, 12 hours south of Yarrabah.
He makes the trip home twice a year and said while Yarrabah was a fantastic place for a child to grow up, there was a lack of educational and employment opportunities.
To find out more go to aief.com.au.
Originally published as How a good education helped indigenous man Nathan Bassani to have it all