Scholarships help storyteller find his voice

As a child, Beau Windon’s aim was simply to finish high school. Now he’s on his way to completing a PhD, thanks to generous scholarship support from RMIT.

School was not a fun time for Wiradjuri man Beau Windon. As a child he was diagnosed with ADHD, Autism and OCD which, he says, put a target on his back for bullies. And at home, generational trauma led to other challenges.

“Coming from an Indigenous background, my family had a mistrust of the school system and there was no expectation to finish high school,” he says.

Beau intended to leave school as soon as he legally could, but when his older sister dropped out, he decided to hang in there. 

"I wanted someone in our family to have finished high school."

After completing high school in 2005, Beau spent the next nine years working a variety of unfulfilling casual jobs. When he moved to Melbourne in 2014, a question from his therapist changed everything. 

“She asked me what I would like to do if money was no object and there were no other barriers. I love storytelling and I used to write a lot as a teenager, so I thought, maybe writing?”

With the help of a support worker, Beau applied for some courses and was accepted into RMIT’s Associate Degree of Professional Writing and Editing

In his first year of study, he received a scholarship of $2,500 and a grant to buy a laptop.

Image of Beau Windon inside RMIT's Ngarara Willim Centre. Beau Windon inside RMIT's Ngarara Willim Centre
The scholarship took some of the financial pressure off and having a laptop meant I could study at home instead of using the shared computers at uni, which always gave me anxiety.

It took Beau four years to complete the program part-time and he graduated in December 2019.

After seeing how successful Beau was at uni, his parents changed their mind about his education. “Mum and Dad both flew to Melbourne for the ceremony. It was a huge matter of pride for my family. Not only did I do it, but I graduated with distinction.”

He was keen to continue studying, but years surviving on the disability support pension and part-time jobs meant finances were tight. 

Thankfully Ngarara Willim – RMIT’s dedicated support service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – reached out. They supported him to apply for scholarships and he was awarded an RMIT Study Support Scholarship of $8,000 per year. It covered his Bachelor and Honours degrees over three years.

“$8,000 might not seem like a lot but when you haven’t had much, it’s amazing,” he says.

"Before receiving the scholarship there were times when I only had dinner three times a week. I’d make those meals big and nutritious and then eat cereal and things like that the rest of the time."

During his Honours degree, Beau investigated the complexities of neurodivergent writing.

“The whole Honours year was so rejuvenating and it got me excited about writing again. My supervisor told me that the research and practice I was doing would shuffle really easily into a PhD in Media and Communications.”

In 2022 Beau was the winner of a Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards for self-told stories by writers living with a disability.

“The judges’ comments made me think ‘yeah, I want to do a PhD and continue down that track’,” he says.

Being accepted into the PhD program and receiving an RMIT Indigenous Higher Degree by Research Scholarship to support him through it, has been life changing.

“Not only am I able to eat but I'm able to pay rent without going into financial distress. It's such an unusual feeling having this extra money to be able to buy things like new clothes. It’s removed the anxiety about how I’m going to survive.”

 

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.