Nurse turns life around
FOR years Kayleen Wallace struggled with racism and believed people when they told her she wouldn't amount to anything.
Today Mrs Wallace is an indigenous health worker at Warwick Hospital and has overcome those issues to graduate with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Indigenous Community Health) from Curtin University.
Mrs Wallace said she attended primary school in Baryulgil, New South Wales, where her father was employed at an asbestos mine owned by James Hardie.
"Unfortunately racism was prevalent at school and we indigenous students were the minority," she said.
"My dream as a child was to be a ballerina but this changed in high school when I wanted to be a police officer.
"When I left high school at Year 8 after struggling with the racism, there weren't many options in those days, I thought I'd be better at being a mother and raising kids but that didn't happen.
"My family was very supportive but, due to isolation, lack of support in school and racism, I felt it was better to drop out.
"Then I roamed around New South Wales staying with family and friends for a number of years."
As time went on Mrs Wallace decided to prove the naysayers wrong, starting work with the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service in 2010 and studying for a Diploma in Indigenous Health from 2013.
"I met my wonderful husband, who lived in Toowoomba," Mrs Wallace said.
"I thought back to when Dad and Mum worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over our heads, plus the influences of my husband and his family - they had everything and worked hard for it, so I thought I can do the same and be a role model for my immediate family back home.
"I started attending TAFE in Toowoomba to study maths and English and then completed a series of Indigenous Primary Health Care courses including Certificate III (2007), Certificate IV (2011) and Diploma (2013), then I completed a Graduate Diploma Indigenous Health Promotion (2011, Sydney University).
"At first studying again after so long gave me a headache for the first month but then it reinvigorated the passion for learning I had in the first place but put aside."
Mrs Wallace said she started to believe in herself and decided to further her qualifications as a health worker by studying a bachelor degree.
"Now one of my nieces has decided to go to university and become a registered nurse, even though - like me - she had hardly any education through school," she said.
Mrs Wallace said turning around her life showed anyone could choose a path and "go for it".
"There is help out there to succeed and my family and friends see me as a role model for my nephews, nieces and cousins," she said.
"After my honours degree, I plan to do a PhD and stay based at the Warwick Hospital.
"I have no plans to go anywhere else."