The 2020 recipient for The Berg Family Foundation Scholarship is Benjamin (Ben) Narooz McGrory (born in 1999, male, with an Indigenous background, from New South Wales). At the end of 2019 after completing his first year of tertiary studies, Benjamin was successful in transferring into a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Law at The University of Sydney in 2020. Benjamin is the first in his family to attend a tertiary institution.
Benjamin completed his HSC through Sydney Distance Education High School. Benjamin faced many adversities during his time as school captain and advocated for the needs of disadvantaged LGBT+ and Indigenous students. Benjamin was recognised by his principal for being the highest achieving Indigenous student in his cohort. Benjamin gained entry into a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney in 2019. There, with the support of Mana Yura (formerly known as the “Koori Centre”), Benjamin completed his first year with a Distinction average. Benjamin achieved an impressive GPA of 82 and frequently participated in MOBS (Mentoring Our Brothers and Sisters), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mentoring program.
Benjamin is looking forward to being part of the Pinnacle Scholarship Program because financially, it will provide peace of mind, but also understands the importance of mentorship and representation. Benjamin states, “As a young gay Indigenous Australian, it is hard to be open about my sexual orientation. There are no openly gay Indigenous role models to look up to and challenge negative stigmas. It continues to drive my passion for overcoming and challenging myself to be a catalyst for changing perceptions for LGBTIQ+ people within the Indigenous community. Despite some days appearing seemingly impossible, I know that I am making a difference. I strive to continue to grow as an LGBTIQ+ advocate through my studies at the University of Sydney and my Indigenous community engagement.”
Benjamin has been an activist in his volunteer work as a former youth councillor and Co-Deputy Chair on the Blue Mountains Youth Council and as school captain at Sydney Distance Education High School. He has passionately advocated for youth disadvantaged by mental health and minority groups such as LGBT+ and Indigenous issues which face significant barriers in terms of accessibility and a voice. He has represented youth at such forums as The Greater Sydney Commission, NSW Parliament and Civic Leadership Programs, Blue Mountains Project Now Youth Congress and was selected to be Co-Deputy Chair at a General Council meeting at the Blue Mountains Council Chambers. Benjamin is committed to using his studies as a platform for challenging stigma and advocating for both the Indigenous and LGBT+ communities. In his tutorials and academic writing, he is noted for having a “unique understanding of gender and race and its application concerning gender and power dynamics.”