Professor Supriya Singh honoured her mother‘s courage in fighting gender norms and traditional stereotypes in India by creating two scholarships. The Inder Kaur Reconciliation Scholarship was awarded for the first time to Media and Communications student, Cortney Glass. Here Cortney and Supriya tell their stories.
Cortney: “I’m from Katherine in the Northern Territory, it’s a three hour drive from Darwin and my mob are the Wardaman and Dagoman. When I first came to Melbourne at the age of 14 to attend boarding school, it was a complete culture shock, but it totally changed my outlook on life.
At first it was so hard to move away from my family and friends, but it was worthwhile. When I got to Uni, I really needed financial support to help me through and having had the access to the Inder Kaur Reconciliation Scholarship meant I could afford the books and other things I needed while living away from home.
I am the first person in my family to graduate from University, so for me, being awarded a scholarship is all about having the opportunity to be a role model for my siblings, cousins and other Indigenous people to inspire them to continue to grow and to develop, and just to be who they are.
This has been a life-changing experience for me and if I am in a position to be able to help another University student in the way that I have been helped, I would definitely take up the opportunity to give back in any way I can.”
Supriya: “My mother (Inder Kaur) was born in 1911 in Rawalpindi (then India). In those days a girl had to leave school at puberty. When Partition happened in 1947, Rawalpindi became part of the new country of Pakistan. Soour family became refugees and we had to move to Delhi.
Ironically for my mother, she benefited a lot from the changes to social norms which started to occur after Partition. Restrictions on women started to lift a little, because each family needed more than one income earner to survive. My mother took the opportunity to finish her matriculation and to start work as an educator.
She went on to complete a Masters and became the founding Principal of three women’s colleges - a relatively unusual thing for a woman. When I was growing up, I didn’t realise the courage it took for my mother to achieve these things.
Because of this, I was never in any doubt that in order to help someone it had to be through education. I thought it would be a great testament to my mother’s struggles both as a woman and as a refugee – if someone could be helped in her name, then that would recognise her courage – so we established the scholarships.
As a migrant to Australia myself, I was welcomed and wanted to give back to help the first people of this country. So this is a gift from my ancestors to theirs.