Caitlyn took part in The Pinnacle Foundation’s Scholarship program during 2014-2017 while undertaking a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide. Caitlyn shares with us her journey as a Pinnacle alumni and what she has been up to since completing her studies.
Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.
I applied for the Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program in my second year of a five-year university degree. I was living out of home and really needed the financial support the program offered. The scholarship program also seemed like an amazing opportunity to connect with a community of people who shared similar experiences and goals as I did. I was thrilled when I received a call saying I had been accepted into the program. I was told that my mentor would be Judge Charlotte Kelly of the Federal Circuit Court — she had graciously agreed to mentor me when asked by the Pinnacle Mentor Manager. I am so grateful that Judge Kelly agreed to mentor me — not only did I gain a mentor, I gained a lifelong friend. Judge Kelly and I caught up every few months during my four years as a Pinnacle scholar. She was always so generous with her time and provided me with incredible guidance and advice. Judge Kelly looked out for me even after my time as a Pinnacle scholar came to an end, and we still keep in touch today.
What did you gain most from being part of the Pinnacle program?
When I received my scholarship I was living out of home and studying full time. University life can be really challenging, and the financial assistance from my scholarship was vital for me. I was able to focus more on my studies and could finally afford my textbooks. I also cannot overstate how important the Pinnacle community was to me. Meeting so many talented and driven LGBTIQ+ people opened my eyes to the world of support and opportunity that exists for us. It allowed me to see that I could be happy and successful in my career, never compromising on who I am.
I would strongly encourage other young LGBTIQ+ Australians to apply — don’t hesitate, you are deserving of this scholarship and you have a unique voice to contribute to our community. It is important to understand that the program caters to all types of people and career choices; no matter what career you have chosen, the Pinnacle Scholarship Program can be an option for you. The benefits of being a Pinnacle scholar are boundless and it is so heartening to see the program go from strength to strength and support increasing numbers of young LGBTIQ+ Australians.
What have you been up to since finishing your degree and since your time as a Pinnacle scholar?
I have been very busy since finishing my degree in 2018. My Pinnacle scholarship helped me reach my full potential at university — I graduated with first class honours, the Justin Skipper Prize for the student who took the most active and effective part in student life throughout their degree, and the John Perry Prize for International Law. I have made the move from Adelaide to Melbourne to pursue my dream of working in international law. I currently work as an Associate to the Honourable Justice Zammit at the Supreme Court of Victoria, working on civil and criminal matters. My work is incredibly rewarding, and I am so grateful that I have been able to pursue this opportunity with the support of my Pinnacle mentor who acted as a personal reference for me.
I have also made sure to keep actively involved with the Pinnacle Foundation. I recently became involved with the Victorian Committee, and I often speak at Pinnacle events and share the impact the Pinnacle Foundation has had on my life. I look forward to continuing my relationship with the Pinnacle Foundation in the long-term. It is really important to me to give back to the organisation that has provided me, and so many others, with such vital support.
Night of a Thousand Dinners 2019 - Queensland
On Tuesday 26 November, Michael Hiller and KPMG generously hosted a Night of a Thousand Dinners cocktail event in Brisbane. Over 80 attendees heard from a panel comprising Pinnacle Deputy Chair, Elizabeth Jameson; Pinnacle Queensland Chair, Wayne Porritt; Pinnacle Ambassador, The Hon Justice Thomas Bradley; Queensland Police Commissioner, Katarina Carroll; and Pinnacle alumni, Harriet Horsfall. Special thanks go to KPMG, silent auction prize donors, and the Queensland Committee for their tireless efforts. Together we are lighting the spark and transforming young lives.
Night of a Thousand Dinners 2019 - Victoria
On Thursday 21 November, Mark Gossington and KPMG generously hosted a Night of a Thousand Dinners cocktail event in Melbourne. Over 100 attendees heard from Pinnacle’s Founding Patron, Sean Linkson OAM, as well as scholars/alumni Ben Henry, Caitlyn Georgeson and Connor Allen, who powerfully inspired the audience with their journeys. Special thanks go to KPMG, prize donors, and the Victorian Committee for their tireless efforts.
Night of a Thousand Dinners 2019 - New South Wales
On Saturday 17 November, Alan Joyce AC hosted 140 guests for a black tie dinner at Qantas HQ as part of Pinnacle’s national Night of a Thousand Dinners fundraising celebrations around the country. Dylan Lloyd, one of the Foundation’s graduating scholars, powerfully shared his story – affirming how The Pinnacle Foundation lights the spark and transforms young lives. Thanks go to the event sponsors and prize donors, including Neil Perry and The Rockpool Foundation, PWC, Talent Management, Zeal, Ross Wilson Wines; as well as auctioneer Karen Harvey, host Anjali Rao, DJ Kate Munroe, the marvellous Qantas volunteers, NSW Chair, Shane Lloyd, and the NSW Committee for their tireless efforts.
Big thanks also to Jeffrey Fang (IG @jeffreyfengphotos) and Agostina Martorana for photographing the event.
Nic’s journey with The Pinnacle Foundation has come full circle – he began as a recipient of a Pinnacle scholarship in 2015, then he became a volunteer with Pinnacle in 2016 and now, as the Scholar Manager, he is a valued member of Pinnacle’s Management Committee. Nic shares with us his journey which saw him growing up in Regional Australia, overcoming the challenges faced by many young LGBTIQ+ Australians in regional areas, recently finishing his Masters of Social Work (Advanced Practice, Research/Dissertation strand) and being recognised for his work in advocacy and social justice. We, at The Pinnacle Foundation, couldn’t be prouder of Nic and all of his accomplishments.
Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.
I originally moved from Coolah in Rural NSW to Dubbo when I was ten years old. Growing up in a small town, I faced intense bullying due to my sexuality and this brought about struggles with my mental health which were compounded by the fact that I moved out of home with my two older brothers when I was 15.
Growing up and going into high school, I was really unsure of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to study in the future. All I knew at that time was that I have always loved education and I loved learning and even though there was turmoil in my personal life, I wanted more than anything to finish year 12 as I would be the first in my immediate family to do so.
When I was in year 12, I chose Society and Culture as one of my electives. In this class I met a wonderful teacher, Natalie Hudson, who saw the potential in me and believed in me – this support was something no-one had really shown me before and it had a big impact in my life at the time. It was so encouraging to hear my teacher always speak positively about the LGBTIQ+ community and share positive stories about what members of our community had achieved – these stories made me believe in myself and helped me see that I too could achieve great things in life. It was Natalie who first encouraged me to study Social Work after finishing high school, which I did when through a Pathways course in Diploma of Community Services.
During my last year at Uni, I spoke with Natalie who had come across The Pinnacle Foundation and she encouraged me to apply for a scholarship. By this stage I was becoming more and more involved in community events such as Reclaim the Night and I wanted to strengthen my connection with organisations that supported our community. At first, I was very nervous to apply, but I remember thinking that The Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program was a great opportunity for me and my academic future, but also a great platform to meet like minded LGBTIQ+ people. I was so excited and happy to be shortlisted for an interview and consequently offered a Pinnacle Scholarship. Being part of the Pinnacle Family has given me so much more confidence in my ability to have an impact in advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community and in my roles with Headspace Dubbo and as the Equity and Diversity Project Manager at Charles Sturt University (CSU).
My journey with The Pinnacle Foundation has come full circle, from being selected as a scholar to now being part of the Management Committee as Scholar Manager. The opportunities that The Pinnacle Foundation has offered me to grow, learn, gain wisdom and share my wisdom have been unparalleled and I am forever grateful that I was accepted in the Pinnacle Scholarship Program and became part of the Pinnacle family.
What did you gain most from being part of the Pinnacle program?
When I received my scholarship, I was working two jobs, one as a cleaner and one in retail, and had very limited time for much else. Working two jobs was essential because being a student, paying for living expenses, purchasing textbooks and any other university related costs can be incredibly expensive and stressful when managing a full-time course load. The Pinnacle Foundation scholarship funds allowed me to dedicate more time to my studies and my work supporting and advocating for young LGBTIQ+ Australians living in rural and regional areas. By removing the pressures and stress of struggling with finances, I was able to step into roles and situations where I could share my experience as a young member of the LGBTIQ+ community who grew up in a small town and speak about the experiences that I, and many others like me, have faced and overcome. I truly believe that because of my scholarship and all the new doors that were opened to me as part of being a Pinnacle scholar, I gained so much confidence and self-belief and this has helped me become the person I am today.
Another key thing that I have gained from my experience as part of the Pinnacle Program has been the lifelong friendships and connections that I have been able to create with fellow scholars, my mentor and the wider Pinnacle family. These connections have been vital to me in creating a strong sense of connection, community and belonging. I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself and we are all working towards advancing the rights of our LGBTIQ+ community members through education and knowledge. I also gained so much from my relationship with my mentor, in fact, we keep in touch to this day. Having someone who was doing wonderful things in his career, from a regional area like myself, that I could look up to and learn from was such a vital part and one of the highlights of my experience at Pinnacle – not only did I gain a mentor, I also gained a friend.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for the Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program?
First and foremost, I would say there is no harm in trying. Before applying, I wasn’t sure I was deserving of a Pinnacle scholarship. I thought there may be candidates who needed the scholarship more than I did. I am glad that I followed through and applied, because it really has changed my life. One piece of advice that I would give to any young person considering applying would be to put down on paper your skills, attributes, abilities and contributions to the LGBTIQ+ community. These factors are ones that only you can bring to the table and are so needed in our community. By getting involved in programs such as The Pinnacle Foundation’s Scholarship Program you are contributing your valuable addition to our cause and your contribution is important, needed and worthwhile.
I want to encourage others from regional and rural areas all around Australia to apply – now more than ever we need representation in our communities. We need to show other young LGBTIQ+ Australians from these areas that they are not alone, that there are others just like us and that we can make a huge difference and have an impact in our communities for generations to come. It is important to remember that you have be authentic to yourself and bring your qualities to everything you do.
Can you share with us about what you are up to these days?
I am so thrilled to say that I have just finished my Masters degree! This is a huge achievement for me, and I am so happy that I have completed a course that I am passionate about and one that builds upon my dedication towards social justice. I have also completed a Post Grad in Project Management. Both my academic and life experiences have contributed to my current role as the Equity and Diversity Project Manager at CSU – a role that inspires me every day because I can have a practical and tangible impact in ensuring the development, implementation and delivery of projects that promote equity and diversity at CSU.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation and help build awareness around youth mental health, marriage equality, and to be able to advocate strongly for increased inclusion for LGBTIQA+ individuals in regional Australia. My work has offered me many opportunities to meet a diverse and wonderful mix of people who contribute so much to the LGBTIQ+ community. I have had the privilege and honour of being part of organisations and movements that promote inclusion and diversity – such as when I was the president of the Central West Rainbow Alliance, based in Dubbo, a role which aligned with my drive to improve LGBTIQ+ inclusion in rural and regional areas. I have received wonderful recognition for my work, such as being named the 2019 Out Role Model at the Australian LGBT Inclusion Awards. This recognition was such a proud and fulfilling moment for me and really encouraged me to continue my work focussing on advocacy and social justice in order to create impact, change and inclusion in our community for all LGBTIQ+ people.
As for next steps, I am not sure what’s next for me. I am currently happy with my work at CSU and being part of the Pinnacle Foundation. I am really enjoying my post-Masters degree freedom and reading for leisure is a luxury that I am getting used to again.
Cornerstone Members Dinner 2019
On Tuesday 24 September our Chair, Paul Zahra and his husband, Duncan Peerman, generously hosted The Pinnacle Foundation’s annual Cornerstone Members dinner at the Kensington Street Private Kitchen in Sydney. The event recognises and celebrates the important contribution our Cornerstone donors make to The Pinnacle Foundation.
With Patron Alan Joyce AC and Founding Patron Sean Linkson OAM in attendance, Cornerstone Members were privileged to hear Dylan Lloyd, a NSW Pinnacle Scholar, powerfully share his life story – including how support of the Pinnacle family helped Dylan to achieve his goals and support others facing difficult situations.
Cornerstone Members enjoyed performances from the Australian Institute of Music, fine wines generously supplied by Taylor’s Wines and received small gifts courtesy of Sephora and The Daily Edited. Paul Zahra shared with guests many of the exciting developments happening at the Foundation, and Sean Linkson OAM closed with evening with a warm and humorous speech in which he recognised the contributions of those present and explored planned giving.
Thanks go to Jason Parlett, Pinnacle volunteer, for his management of the event and to Same Love Photography.
Lorraine Hall has been a valued mentor at the Pinnacle Foundation for nearly four years, having mentored two of our scholars during this time. Lorraine has had an illustrious career as a commercially focused senior lawyer and has a long-standing passion for working with people in a mentoring capacity. Lorraine shares what she has learnt during her journey as a Pinnacle Foundation mentor.
What inspired you to become a mentor at The Pinnacle Foundation?
I first registered to become a mentor with The Pinnacle Foundation in 2012 after reading about the Foundation in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir newsletter. I remember thinking that I wanted to be involved with Pinnacle because I feel passionately about education and supporting young LGBTIQ+ Australians having access to positive role models in all areas of life – career, relationships and wellbeing. I wanted to share my knowledge and experience and contribute positively to a young LGBTIQ+ Australian’s life experience. It wasn’t until 2016, after finalising the mentor/scholar compatibility check to make sure that we got on well together, that I began my first mentoring relationship at Pinnacle. I am driven by the knowledge that even though we have seen many advancements in the rights for the LGBTIQ+ community, we do have a long way to go and it is important to support and walk alongside young folk, especially those who have faced estrangement from family and community, so that they know they are not alone and that they have a community that supports and backs them in their journey.
What have you learnt from being a mentor at The Pinnacle Foundation?
My first mentoring role at Pinnacle was a great learning curve for me and even though I have experience in mentoring roles, mentoring young people is very dynamic and eye-opening. The transgenerational component of mentoring young people brings you up to date with what is happening in today’s educational landscape and the life challenges that young people face that were not part of my personal trajectory when I was of a similar age. I also learnt that as a mentor I could bring some more traditional approaches to situations that require a different perspective and approach. One example of this was when I recommended a more personalised approach rather than a heavy reliance on technology to face a challenging situation at university. I encouraged my scholar to set up a face-to-face meeting with their lecturer, rather than rely on email communication. This approach worked well because often lecturers are more receptive to face-to-face interactions and issues can be resolved better with a personal approach.
I truly believe that one of the biggest joys of being a mentor is the continual learning that comes along with the process. Being a mentor has encouraged me to look outside of my own history and life experience and learn about someone else’s story. These transgenerational, transcultural exchanges have opened my eyes not only to the differences between myself and my mentee, but also the similarities in our experiences. It is important to share insights with scholars even if the insights may or may not be relevant at that precise moment – you just never know what will resonate with your scholar and their experience. In my journey as a Pinnacle mentor, I have come to understand and acknowledge my strengths and limitations in this role. I can better identify what I can and cannot help my mentee with and acknowledge what I do and not know. It is important to be open to not knowing and always be ready to explore and upgrade your knowledge and skillset.
One important skill that I have learnt to further develop and one that I strive to always remember is to actively listen to my mentee, without probing. Actively listening means that I am not imposing my own opinion and experience without considering the scholar’s history and circumstances. It is vital to remember that everyone is an expert in their own life and can determine what the best course for their life is, based on what they have lived through and experienced. Additionally, to active listening, I have learnt that it is so important to be available, flexible and always ask questions without making assumptions. This approach has helped me nurture the relationship with the scholars I’ve been mentoring as I want to provide support from a place of understanding and empathy.
What advice would you give to other mentors or potential mentors who want to join The Pinnacle Foundation?
I can honestly say that mentoring is one of the most rewarding relationships that you can ever embark on. To get the most out of the mentoring process it is important to throw yourself in to the experience wholeheartedly. In my experience a certain degree of emotional intelligence is necessary in order to fulfil your role as a mentor well. It is so important to be available and flexible to your scholar as sometimes issues do arise outside of the scope of your scheduled mentoring appointment times where your scholar needs your support. A good mentor should enter a mentoring relationship with the perspective that you are there to support, assist, advise and encourage your scholar. The mentoring relationship can sometimes take you outside of your comfort zone and can turn into quite an intense relationship as we are working with young LGBTIQ + people who have often faced innumerable challenges in their lives, estrangement from family and mental health issues. Although you should always do your best to support your scholar, it is also important to be clear on where your role starts and ends, as a mentor is not there to provide professional mental health support, should that be needed.
Finally, one key piece of advice is to have fun! This is a fun and rewarding process – enjoy the moments, always keep learning and take each day as it comes. I remember one evening about a year after I started mentoring, when my partner and I went for dinner with my scholar and her partner. Having a casual evening to share our experiences, enjoy interesting conversation and laughter was a wonderful way to solidify and strengthen our mentoring relationship in the long-term, as we have kept in touch well past our mentoring stage. This evening meant a lot to my scholar, who said that it was so wonderful to witness a long-term successful same-sex partnership. The evening also meant so much to me and my partner because we got to spend a beautiful evening with two wonderful people.
Being a mentor for The Pinnacle Foundation is absolutely an experience I recommend as it has brought so much enjoyment, learning and understanding to my life.
Course: Final-year Law and Criminology student at UNSW.
I want to share with you some of the ways in which Pinnacle has empowered me to achieve things that never would have been possible without the support I’ve received. To highlight just how important an organisation like Pinnacle is, I want to take you back to the start of my journey and show you how I got to where I am today.
I grew up in Richmond, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. I experienced almost daily bullying throughout my primary and early high school years, compounded by living difficulties at home. I was always seen as different, and as a bit of a nerd. When I discovered my attraction to men around the age of 12 or 13, it just reinforced the message that I was somehow broken, or wrong.
These experiences culminated in severe anxiety, especially social anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. After eventually coming out at school (to a handful of people initially, but the rumours spread like wildfire), ironically, the bullying actually stopped – some even came up to me to apologise. Coming out had freed me to be open about who I was at school, and I found a group of friends who accepted me the way I was.
These experiences encouraged me to become fiercely independent. Whenever I got home, I locked myself in my room and studied hard. I aspired to study Law at university – I was a big history, literature and theatre nerd – and it just seemed to capture all of those interests while giving me the knowledge and skills to help people in situations like the ones I was in. After completing Year 12, I applied to live at UNSW before I was even accepted as a student there. I moved in with no job, little financial support and less than $1500 in savings. I remain incredibly grateful that I found an accommodation provider who was willing to be lenient with my rental payments as I struggled through that time – my situation could have turned out a lot worse if I hadn’t.
Fast-forward to O-Week, and while perusing the stalls I noticed one flying the rainbow flag and the words “Queer Collective”. I was shocked! There were not only other people like me, but so many that could form their own stall? Still, I refused to approach them. I was determined not to become the token queer on campus and have my sexuality define me, like I felt it did in high school. But, reading the student newspaper that night, I discovered that this Collective had their very own room on campus, a “Queer Space”. And (even better) that they were having a Pokemon dress-up party that week. Queer nerds, with their very own private lounge on campus. I summoned up the courage, despite my heart thumping wildly in my chest and begging me to just go home, and stepped inside.
What I found that night was a new kind of family. A group of people who, even though they barely knew me, immediately accepted me for who I was. People I didn’t have to explain myself to upon introduction. People I didn’t have to be fearful around. And in that space over the next year, I was able to learn for the first time about the history of LGBTIQ+ people. Histories, stories, struggles, achievements that I had never known a thing about before. I learned that there were LGBTIQ+ people, proudly open and achieving success in virtually every profession. I learned about Michael Kirby, Patron of the Pinnacle Foundation, who was not only openly gay in the legal profession, but who had reached its peak as a Justice of the High Court of Australia. And all of this changed my worldview radically. Importantly, the Queer Collective also introduced me to The Pinnacle Foundation.
Pinnacle has become an extension of the family I found on campus. My Pinnacle family includes the other incredible scholars, each of whom inspire me with their work, achievements and support for me and each other, the staff who offer both proactive support and the knowledge that I’ve always got someone who has my back and of course the mentors. My mentor, Aaron, has provided me with insight, experience and advice, ranging from the professional to the academic and even the personal. It is been profoundly inspiring to see somebody like Aaron thriving in their profession and living an incredible life. He, as well as the other mentors, are wonderful role models and something I wish every LGBTIQ+ student had access to.
Of course, the other amazing aspect of Pinnacle is the scholarship funding. Before I became a Pinnacle Scholar, I had to work up to three jobs during Uni breaks and long hours in semester to remain afloat and cope with the costs of study. I was unable to afford a laptop, so used an old second-hand one that didn’t work unless it was plugged in at the wall (a struggle in many lecture halls!). Pinnacle also helped me save up for things like a suit; for much of my time at university I stood out at legal networking events doing my best to look the part but always falling short of the expectations. Importantly, I’m now able to strike much more of a balance between work, volunteering and study. I’m also proud to say that since becoming a Pinnacle Scholar, my grades for each semester have never dropped below a Distinction average.
Because of the support and empowerment I’ve received, I was encouraged to delve into projects that were supporting my community both on and off-campus, including getting involved with the campaign for marriage equality and scholarships for LGBTIQ+ students on campus. I was elected Queer Officer at the end of my first year (so my plan to avoid being the token queer on campus failed pretty drastically), and from there I’ve also had the opportunity to represent LGBTIQ+ students as the State Queer Officer for the National Union of Students and Convener of the Australian Queer Student Network. It was in that first on-campus role, though, that my co-Queer Officer and I discovered students living in the Queer Space on campus. We also discovered that this was a perennial issue every year. Some had been kicked out of home for simply being themselves, but I later found others who had been made homeless because of domestic violence, dodgy landlords or other situations, often attached to their sexuality and/or gender identity. These students didn’t know where to turn to for help. They didn’t even trust the Queer Collective or the University to support them, because of the stigma associated with homelessness and their experiences of homophobia and transphobia.
This experience inspired me to turn to the university and our student organisation at UNSW and put forward a solution. Within a few months, I successfully negotiated the establishment of two crisis accommodation rooms on campus. This would involve not only a place to stay, but also fast-tracked counselling and psychological support, welfare and employment advice and assistance to find somewhere permanent to stay.
I didn’t stop at UNSW, though. It was obvious to me that this issue wasn’t something that was confined to one campus. I reached out to other institutions across Australia and organised a workshop attended by hundreds of LGBTIQ+ students from across Australia in 2014. The outcome of this workshop was the launch of the Ending Queer Youth Homeless Project, a project I’ve led every year since then. Through this project, we’ve designed flyers and posters for every campus in Australia, launched a national portal to show what LGBTIQ+-friendly resources are available on each university campus and at a state and national level, and we’ve met with MPs to raise the profile of this issue. We even co-wrote a cross-party Senate motion in 2017 to call for state and national research and funding. Still waiting on a bit more action, but it’s in the works!
In addition to my LGBTIQ+ work, I’ve also had the opportunity to represent students for two years on the UNSW Academic Board and on the SRC. In those roles, I achieved University-wide policy reforms and successfully overhauled and strengthened the student representation on the Board into the future.
I am so incredibly proud of the work that I’ve been able to do in my years as a student. But I am also so thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to achieve these things in the first place, thanks to the LGBTIQ+ family who embraced me, supported me and empowered me to get there. I never thought any of this was possible when I was in school, struggling with violence, bullying, depression and anxiety. There are, unfortunately, so many other young people who are unable to realise their potential and achieve what they’re capable of because of circumstances associated with their sexuality and gender. The incredible work Pinnacle does means that those people have a chance to chase their dreams and fulfil their potential in a way they couldn’t have before.
I’ll be sad to leave university at the end of this year, with so much of my growth and development associated with it. But I’m also so excited to begin the next chapter of my life, with the knowledge that I’ve always got my Pinnacle family looking out for me. Thank you.
We have been very busy at The Pinnacle Foundation over the last few weeks in our mission to share our work with young LGBTIQ+ Australians and establish positive and long-lasting partnerships with like-minded organisations and supporters. We have been travelling around meeting new allies and connecting with our existing partners.
We are so grateful for our Foundation Partners and corporate supporters who have opened their doors to members of our community and Foundation scholars, giving our young people an opportunity to share their journeys and the impact that the Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program has had on their lives. By opening their doors to Pinnacle, our partners join us in promoting education as the platform for success and a tool for life-changing opportunities for young LGBTIQ+ Australians from all around Australia studying in a wide range of fields.
Over the last few weeks, in conjunction with our Foundation Partners and supporters, we have been able to establish additional multi-year educational scholarships and mentoring support to young adults across Australia where their gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual characteristics have prevented or hindered the achievement of their career aspirations or personal development. By supporting our Scholarship Program, our partners are actively and tangibly changing the lives of young people across the nation and are helping us make great strides towards social equality and inclusion for our community. We would like to give a special thank you to our partners who have supported us and hosted events alongside us over the last few weeks and helped us to raise awareness of the Foundation’s important cause. Recently we have participated in milestone events which have formed the basis for long-term and fruitful partnerships for our Foundation and the young people we serve. Some of these events include:
AGL Latrobe Valley and Melbourne: AGL hosted a launch at Federation University in the Latrobe Valley to celebrate their partnership with us for a three-year scholarship which is open to students from the Latrobe Valley region. AGL General Manager Coal Operations, Steve Rieniets said that “AGL was proud to be a Pinnacle Foundation sponsor as one of AGL’s core values is ‘better together’ and this collaboration supports this by being respectful and inclusive of all and supporting the community in which we operate by breaking down barriers and working together.” AGL also hosted a launch event at their Melbourne headquarters where one of our scholars, Brock Manson, spoke powerfully about the impact The Pinnacle Foundation has played in achieving his goals and aspirations, and how organisations such as AGL play an important role in creating change in the lives of young LGBTIQ+ Australians.
King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) Sydney: This event launched The King & Wood Mallesons Scholarship and their multi-year partnership with The Pinnacle Foundation. The KWM Scholarship was officially launched in KWM’s Sydney offices. Great presentations were delivered by Claire Warren, Senior Associate at KWM, Paul Zahra, Chair of The Pinnacle Foundation, and Dylan Lloyd, a current scholar whose journey with Pinnacle has seen him step into a leadership role within his university’s LGBTIQ+ community and become an advocate for other marginalised community members who need support and a helping hand to secure safe and affordable housing and financial assistance during their academic careers. The KWM Scholarship will support a marginalised or disadvantaged LGBTIQ+ young adult to study law in Australia.
BHP Melbourne: BHP hosted an informative event to coincide with Wear It Purple Day which explored how different families embrace children who may identify as being a part of the LGBTIQ+ community. BHP announced in May this year its support for the Foundation and will provide three named scholarships for a period of three years, one for each of their major operating areas in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. This contribution will be vital in providing scholarship opportunities for young people in regional areas where there is a great need for this kind of support.
We are always grateful to our partners for championing our cause and for the progress we have made in facilitating greater access to education and community opportunities for young LGBTIQ Australians. We know that there is much more work that needs to be done in this area and would love to partner with you to be able to grow the Pinnacle program across Australia. If you would like to support our work at The Pinnacle Foundation, please visit our Corporate Supporters page for more information on how you can partner with us: https://thepinnaclefoundation.org/corporate_supporters-1/
What was it like for you to be part of The Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program?
I applied for the Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship in 2017 and was awarded the SHK Asia Pacific Scholarship in 2018 for my final year at University where I was completing a Bachelor of Laws (Hons). The scholarship program not only provided financial support during my final year at University but has also been a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people, while also opening many doors.
As part of the program, I attended the Induction Weekend in Sydney which was a fantastic experience to meet amazing people from the LGBTIQA+ community, including Board Members of the foundation, many of them fresh from the Marriage Equality campaign, other Scholars and my Mentor. During the weekend, the Honourable Michael Kirby presented our scholarship certificates, which was very exciting for me as a law student and prospective lawyer. It was encouraging to be surrounded by so many strong members and allies of our community. Prior to attending this weekend, I had never had the opportunity to attend an event with so many members and leaders in the LGBTIQ+ community. I regularly attend events hosted by Pinnacle and have always felt a sense of belonging, a sense of community and a real family vibe. The Pinnacle Foundation events are a great opportunity to hears stories from LGBTIQA+ people of all different generations and truly understand how far we society has come to accepting LGBTIQA+ people, although there is still some way to go.
Since my graduation, I have joined the Victorian State Committee and perform the role of secretary on that committee. This year I will also have the privilege of being a member of the Scholar selection committee, and be able to bring a unique perspective to that process having so recently experienced what it is like to be a young person at University and the day-to-day challenges that you face.
What did you gain most from being part of the Pinnacle program?
Being a Pinnacle Foundation Scholar meant that I could finish my degree with greater ease because I had access to not only financial support, but also the support from so many people within the foundation such as my mentor, and fellow scholars. Being able to identify the similarities in our journeys has made it possible to be hopeful for the future, as well as provide support when times are challenging. Being part of the Pinnacle Program has absolutely helped me build my own personal community which continues to be such an important and valuable part of my life.
What was your experience with your mentor?
I am so happy with my mentor; she has been so helpful and valuable to my experience in the Program. We keep in touch as we have always had such a good connection and I have found it easy to talk to her about my career, life experiences and things I couldn’t speak to anyone else about. During the program we touched base every month or six weeks depending on how busy we both were, and we always made an effort to keep in touch. Having someone who is supportive and available was important for my peace of mind and success in the Program.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for the Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program?
I would suggest that the young person think about what their motivations for why they are studying their course and what they want to achieve from their career and life. Understanding their personal motivations can help them be clear about their current goals and how they can get the most out of the Program. I would also recommend that applicants be candid about the challenges they have faced. Often, we minimise the challenges we have faced and do not give ourselves the credit for what we have fought against or overcome. By not sugar coating the challenges faced the Foundation will be able to identify what support might be needed, and any guidance required, which may come into helping select a mentor later down the line. I would just reiterate to the young person not to be afraid to be yourself because the Pinnace Foundation is one of the safest and most accepting places to be who you are.