Hervey Bay student wins Indigenous Service Award

HERVEY Bay's Chantel Van Wamelen is among the University of Southern Queensland's best and brightest students who were acknowledged recently at the inaugural USQ Student Awards.

The Bachelor of Human Services student won the Indigenous Service Award, which recognised a student who identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and had shown an outstanding level of involvement within, and commitment to, the Aboriginal or Torres Strait community.

Ms Van Wamelen said it was a great honour to receive the award.

"I was very excited to hear that I had won," she said.

"I wasn't able to attend the ceremony in Toowoomba last week and didn't think I had a chance."

In her letter of congratulations, USQ's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Carl Rallings acknowledged her win as "quite an achievement" because there was quite a high standard of applicants that nominated.

"In your absence, the Master of Ceremonies acknowledged yourself and your achievements," he said.

Ms Van Wamelen has been actively involved in various service roles on-campus and externally for local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous people while studying at USQ Fraser Coast.

They include Mental Health Week and NAIDOC Week activities as well as volunteering with song and language assistance in school and day care centres.

On Friday, October 24, she will participate in the Butchulla Consent Determination Hearing on Fraser Island where her ancestors lived.

"While there, I will also be taking my children to Central Station so they can see where their family originated."

Ms Van Wamelen is looking forward to completing her university studies and graduating next year.

The former Urangan State High School student did one year of tertiary studies in New South Wales after finishing Year 12 but missed her Fraser Coast family too much.

"I stuck it out for a year then came back to Hervey Bay to work as a language tutor and administrator before having kids," she said.

"When I wanted to get back into university, it had been almost 10 years since I studied so I did Indigenous Higher Education Pathways Program (IHEPP) to upgrade my skills."

Ms Van Wamelen now works as a mental health support worker at Centacare Fraser Coast while completing her degree.

The mother of three children - Jyleeah, 8, Takoda, 6, and Darnell, 4, - said having a personal tutor at USQ had helped her enormously.

"I don't think I would have got through if not for my tutor Kathy Shilvock who also nominated me for this award," she said.

"I've been working with Kathy for three years now.

"She taught me at the start to do a plan so I could see the goals I wanted to achieve."

The USQ Student Awards were open to all USQ current students with a GPA of four or above with each award having specific criteria that nominees needed to address.

Chantel Van Wamelen with her USQ Indigenous Service Award.
Chantel Van Wamelen with her USQ Indigenous Service Award. Photographer: Jocelyn Watts