Diverse pathways towards university

Several of the people we spoke to for this project did not get into university straight after high school.

As the stories in this video illustrate, some people started off at TAFE or through an alternative entry program at a university and then transitioned into a Bachelor’s degree. Others worked for a few years before deciding they wanted to go to university.

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Back to my senior years, I came back to […], dropped out at Year 11. That was due to being a young carer for both my parents. My Dad, a quadruple bypass recovery patient, and then my Mum with diabetes. Her vision is deteriorating still. Being a young carer since I was young, and then getting picked up by an organisation called […]. […] here helped myself to be able to…they provided me with respite from caring for my parents and because I’m the eldest, there’s that mentality of the eldest has to become the bread winner when both parents are sick.

There was so much pressure, and so hence why I didn’t end up finishing school. I was capable of doing it, but honestly it was just too much on my plate. It just got to me and I couldn’t stay focused in school, so then dropped out. After I dropped out for a year, I had gone back to studies. I went to TAFE and I got my Certificate IV in Youth Work. From there, got offered an opportunity to study my degree. I ended up getting to my bachelor’s degree, and completed my Bachelor’s in Youth Work at […] here in Melbourne. Did that, and it was a big accomplishment because at the end of the day I was the first child out of my whole family to have been able to get my bachelor’s degree


I finished my exams and I got a decent…I forgot the score. ATAR. Decent ATAR, not the one that I wanted, but I found a pathway to a bachelor degree that I wanted to do at the ANU. I really wanted to do Pacific studies at ANU in Canberra, but the ATAR was way too high. So again, I just made an effort to reach out to people’s emails that I found on the website and just talk to them like they’re regular people and just get over my nerves and just ask them like, “I really want to study this but I don’t know how to get there if I don’t have a good ATAR.”

That’s when I found out about the Associate degree that they offered at the college there. In 2013 I got into the Associate’s degree and they said I could do two years of that and some of the credits would go towards my Bachelor degree and I could just go straight into a Bachelor of Pacific Studies.

Then I was sort of thrusted into this university life where it was students that came from really wealthy, really successful families. I didn’t realise that it was the top university in Australia and wow, I was out of my league. But at the same time, I still had a drive to keep going. I just got to do this. I really want to be here. I was so inspired by seeing the Pacific academics and all their research and all these projects they’re involved in and networking and meeting all these international students from the Pacific.

I just tried my best and I took help wherever I could find it and I really listened to my tutors just to really brush up on my writing skills because it was terrible. I was a terrible writer. I did not know how to research or articulate myself at all, but I just really stuck my head down and decided that I would just try my best. That was good. But then my halfway through my first year of my associates degree, my dad passed away from cancer. That was really hard. It definitely was a terrible time because my life got really messy after that. It was the best year ever, but it was also obviously the worst year ever after that.

Anyway, so then I ended up jumping between Canberra, Mildura and Solomon Islands, which is crazy, but anyway, my life was just sort of in between these different places. But I still managed to finish my Associate’s degree. I actually did really well and I got fast tracked into my Bachelor’s, so I didn’t do two years of my Associate’s, I did a year and then I got fast tracked into my bachelor’s. I did part time while I worked.

At a supermarket just because I found it really hard without financial support.

In hindsight I should’ve taken a break, but it was not in my mind like, “Oh, I don’t need to take a break. Pacific Islanders don’t take gap years. That’s not a thing that we do. We just study, we just finish it and then that’s it, we get a job and then we can help our family out.”

It was really a huge goal for me to just get my degree, but because I was grieving and because of this new environment I was in where I was really different and I really didn’t have the support that these other kids had in order for them to perform at this peak university, I had to work really hard. But in the end, it was all too much and I didn’t perform as well as I’d like at uni.

I ended up dropping down to two courses at a time to one course at a time. I ended up failing a few courses, having to retake them again. Then it just got too much. So in 2017 I just was like, “No, I can’t focus at uni, everything’s too stressful. I need to go back home in Solomons and help my mum out.”

After the year I was finished with working in the Solomons for the family business and doing my internship, I came back to Australia, but I didn’t go back to Canberra. I just transferred to Melbourne and that’s where I finished my bachelor’s degree and I did that in Bachelor of International Relations. 


Growing up, I think like about 15, 16, I definitely knew that I wanted to be a cop. So that was what I…which is ridiculous now that I look back on it. I like, finishing school that’s all I wanted to do, so I got a full time job working in retail, tried to get some life experience. Started to apply when I was 21 and then I got knocked back and had to wait a year to reapply. I think that within that year, I became quite frustrated career-wise because I needed to wait a year for that, I didn’t know what I was doing, and then…you know, nursing, I guess for me was always at the back of my mind, and I think what really drew me to nursing was that it gave me the ability to have the opportunity to work overseas. I knew I was going to struggle academically because I can’t write or even string a sentence properly to save my life, but I thought that given the opportunities nursing provided, I thought that would be a better career pathway for me. So we started to look into it 2013-ish, I think. I was still working full time in retail at this stage, by the way, and then in 2014 I applied. 2015 I got into the uni.

So in 2015 I’m 24. I’m classed as a mature age student heading into tertiary education, having no idea what the hell I was doing.

Nursing’s a funny one. I feel like people go into nursing in different stages of their lives. So I was really able to resonate with a lot of people there. Like I actually made friends with a couple of mature-age students in which I’m still friends with now, and then I had like the other, the Tongan guys that I was friends with as well. I think they all had I guess a part to play in pushing me through. I enjoyed the content, because it was stuff that I actually enjoyed. Like I love the anatomy, the physiology side of things. It was a lot, and it was information overload all the time. I would sit there in my lectures like scratching my head thinking like “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” But I think at the end of the day, I’m like no, you think of the end game, and you think of what this is going to provide for you and your family.

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  • Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
  • Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
  • Ashirah – University student
  • Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
  • Chris – Field Officer (HR)
  • Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
  • Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
  • David – App company CEO
  • Elisabeth – Teacher
  • Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
  • Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
  • Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
  • Leki – Physiotherapist
  • Luisa – Registered Nurse
  • Malelega – Legal Assistant
  • Marita – Writer
  • Rose – Workplace Consultant
  • Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
  • Semisi – Lawyer
  • Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
  • Teisa – Medical Doctor
  • Tevita – IT Professional
  • Thom – Make-up Artist
  • Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer
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