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Profile: Audrey Crémer – Pinnacle alumnus

Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.

I applied to become a Pinnacle scholar when I was in Year 12, and subsequently became a scholar in 2012. I had known I was gay since year nine and had been out for a while at school. I was a boarder at a religious girls’ school at the time, but thankfully the school was incredibly supportive.

Unfortunately, my home life was not as supportive. Even though I was living away from my parents, once I came out to them during Year 12, one of my parents wanted nothing more to do with me. That year, I stayed at boarding school during the holidays instead of going home, and I didn’t have contact with my parents. Without their support, I cleaned the school to make pocket money to pay for school supplies. It was a very tumultuous and deeply upsetting experience. As the Higher School Certificate (HSC) was approaching, I knew I would not have the support of my school anymore and I was considering whether university would be possible given what was happening in my personal life.

In 2011, I went to Fair Day and saw The Pinnacle Foundation’s stall for the first time. It was an exhilarating moment, as I had never come across anything like it before. In a year of personal chaos where I was not sure how I would attend university, it seemed like the answer I had been waiting for. I applied and I asked one of my teachers to be one of my referees. I was lucky to be accepted as a scholar and had Pinnacle’s support at the commencement of my university career, where I began studying a Bachelor of Arts (Adv)(Hons) at Sydney University.

I am now working as a Manager in the NSW Government, supporting initiatives for the State Environment Minister. It is complex and dynamic work, and I love helping to improve outcomes for the environment, heritage, climate, and Aboriginal communities across the State. Reflecting on where I am today versus where I was ten years ago, I know that the support and mentoring I received through Pinnacle has played a huge part in shaping my confidence and values as a young LGBTIQ+ leader.

That is why I am so pleased to have now come back to the Pinnacle Family as a member of the New South Wales Committee. I am very excited about the many opportunities there are to contribute to the Pinnacle Family, our community, and the lives of young LGBTIQ+ Australians who may be facing some of the challenges I faced when I was a scholar.

What did you gain from being part of the Pinnacle scholarship program?

While I was a scholar, there were main two parts of the program that had immense positive impacts on my wellbeing and ability to study.

Firstly, the financial support of the scholarship was huge as I did not have financial support from my family. After Year 12 ended, I was receiving a small amount of Youth Allowance while living in crisis accommodation. However, I was really committed to going to university. I’d thrown everything at the HSC and received a great Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), and I did not feel like I was being left behind by my peers who were going to university. In my mind, taking a break from education to save money was not something I could do. Having the financial support from Pinnacle and being able to purchase the necessary textbooks, a laptop, and essential supplies were a big factor of me being able to live my dream of studying at university.

The second thing was having the social backing from Pinnacle at a time where I felt very alone. Moving out of boarding school, where I had been supported and protected as a young queer person, and into adult life was an incredibly difficult transition. The Pinnacle Foundation, a network of people who were LGBTIQ+ and thriving in their personal and professional lives was so reassuring. When I came out, one of my parents said I would never have a successful career because of my sexuality. Having this network of successful queer people was amazing in showing me that I too could have a rich and fulfilling professional life.

What was your experience with your mentor like?

At the time of my scholarship, I was plagued with impostor syndrome, as well as anxiety and low confidence. After being in constant ‘fight’ mode during high school, the emotional impacts of my experiences were catching up with me.

I had two incredible mentors in my time as a scholar, but I struggled with reaching out to them because I felt unworthy of being a scholar and unworthy of having amazing, accomplished mentors who genuinely wanted to invest their time on me. The idea of having one-on-one sessions with people who were really esteemed and impressive was also scary.

The mentorship component of the scholarship is such an impactful part of the scholarship and can be life changing. Now being in my career and knowing how valuable this opportunity is, I wish I could go back, believe that I was worthy of their mentorship, and get more out of the experience.

I would like to say to anyone who, like me, is feeling impostor syndrome as part of being a scholar and being paired with these amazing mentors, you are not wasting their time. They genuinely care about you and your future, and they want to share their knowledge and insights with you as part of the Pinnacle program. Also, it does not matter if you feel like you know what the right things to say are or the perfect questions to ask, just book in the time with your mentor and the conversation will organically arise. Then, one day, you will be able to do the same for someone else and share your learnings. Additionally, if you are struggling with anything, reach out to the Pinnacle team and let them know – they are there to help you thrive!

What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for The Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program?

Just apply! Do not second guess yourself. You are worthy of all opportunities and no matter the field you want to go into (or do not know just yet!), The Pinnacle Foundation is looking for you. Additionally, the mentoring aspect of the program is an incredibly valuable and unique factor of the scholarship, and not something you will easily find in other scholarship programs. If you get the opportunity, engage in the mentoring experience as much as you can and squeeze out every drop. Take the opportunity and embrace all the doors that this program will open.

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