Winning passion to serve youth

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    ACU Social Work student and scholarship winner Calle Nicholls. PHOTO: ACU

    It’s a long way from her hometown in the central NSW town of Blayney to Rome, but for Calle Nicholls it’s just the start of her journey to help indigenous youth who have no place to go.

    The second year Bachelor of Social Work student at ACU’s Canberra campus recently won the 2019 Francis Xavier Conaci Scholarship which will allow her to study at the university’s Rome campus.

    A proud woman of the Wiradjuri tribe, Calle has been “passionate” about social work since she was 15 and hopes to ultimately work in the area of youth incarceration, particularly indigenous youth in Western Australia or the Northern Territory.

    “I was extremely grateful and excited when I found out I had been awarded this particular scholarship,” said Ms Nicholls.

    “It is a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity.”

    “With only one student being selected, I feel very proud to be this particular person and look forward to representing my culture.”

    Director of the First Peoples and Equity Pathways Directorate at ACU, Jane Ceolin, said the university was pleased to provide this wonderful opportunity for the third scholarship recipient.

    “Calle is an inspiration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and a role model for her home community,” Ms Ceolin said.

    Australia’s Indigenous connection to Rome

    The Francis Xavier Conaci Scholarship enables an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student to undertake study at the ACU Rome Campus as part of their core curriculum requirements.

    Bishop Christopher A. Saunders of Broome, Australia, left, gestures as he prays with other Australian bishops at the tomb of Francis Xavier Conaci at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Photo: CNS photo/courtesy Gavin Abraham, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
    Bishop Christopher A. Saunders of Broome, Australia, left, gestures as he prays with other Australian bishops at the tomb of Francis Xavier Conaci at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Photo: CNS photo/courtesy Gavin Abraham, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

    It was established in recognition of an Aboriginal student, Francis Xavier Conaci, who travelled to Rome in 1849 from New Norcia in Western Australia to study in a Benedictine monastery.

    Conaci died in Rome and is understood to be buried in a grave in the Basilica of Sts Paul’s Outside the Walls which the Australian bishops visited last month during their Ad Limina visit.

    “Being in Rome to represent my culture means I have the ability to have a voice, I can advocate for the rights of my people, expose the truth and promote change,” said Ms Nicholls.

    “This is a very important time for Indigenous people as it recognises the history, hardship and disadvantage we face on a day to day basis.”

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