University Student

Name: Ashirah
Age at interview: 20 years
Occupation: Student

Ethnicity: Samoan
Country of birth: Australia

In this video
2:01Experiences as a Pacific Student
5:48University and Extracurricular Responsibilities
7:25Primary School and Support from Parents
11:29Balancing Study with other Responsibilities
16:55First Job
19:06University and Finding a Direction
22:30Language and Pacific Community
24:56Advice for Youth
29:52Staying Focused
32:42Role Models



Thank you. Hello, everyone. My name is Ashirah Faitele Scanlan. I am 20 years old, and I am the oldest of 12 children. So I was born in Australia, in Melbourne, Box Hill and lived in Melbourne for a few years. Then I moved to Shepparton, where I’m currently living now for about 11 years now.

So most of my schooling was done here in Shepparton. I started school here about grade four up to year 12 at the same school. I actually moved from different schools. So moving to Shep was a really good change for our family, for myself. I was at one primary school in Shepparton, but then we moved over to […]. So I’ve been there since grade four and I stayed there till year 12. So it was a prep to year 12 school.

And yeah, growing up, I didn’t really have much challenges, I would say. I guess, I just went through the phase where everything was just handed to me because I’m the oldest and I wouldn’t say my family were struggling at the time because I didn’t actually experience what my parents went through.

So I’m actually blessed to have been born in Australia and also be an Australian citizen as well. So yes, school for me was okay. I was actually bullied a lot growing up, just because of my skin colour. And I was looked down by a lot of people, and my confidence just went down. But that didn’t stop me because I knew that I could be better. And I knew that those negative bullying and negative comments wasn’t going to stop me. So I just had to change my attitude and myself and not let those things hold me down.

Experiences as a Pacific Student

And another thing with that school is there was no Islanders there. So I was socialising with a lot of White people, Asian people, some Indians, it was so multicultural. And I had a lot of different friends, but I didn’t socialise a lot with Islanders.

So growing up in that school, a lot of Islanders outside in the other schools, they would tease me and say, “Oh, you’re a White Samoan,” whatever that means. So I socialised around a lot of White people and just different people. And yeah, it was always because it was a private school. This school was down near all the other private schools and then all the public schools where the Islanders went to that just made them dislike me more because it felt like I was up there, and they were down there. But that’s not really what I wanted to make them feel.

I’m just so blessed to have gone to that school, being surrounded by a lot of people that supported me and supported my education, as well as the help of my parents.

Yeah, so I wouldn’t say I was that student that just got straight As or anything. My grades were okay. One thing I did dominate in school was sport and art and music. And that’s what a lot of us Islanders are looked at, that we’re really good in that area, being good at sport, art and music. But I wanted to be looked at as a different type of Islander who was also good at math, who was also good at English, science, even though I really disliked those subjects, but I knew that those subjects were going to help me with my future career with whatever I wanted later on in life.

There were some teachers that supported me, but there were some teachers that would doubt me at times. And then a lot of kids would say, “You’re only good at this. And when you finish school, you’re not going to make it to university.”

And that actually didn’t make me feel sad or anything, that just motivated me to keep going. Because my dad was the first Pacific Islander to graduate from university here in Shepparton. So he inspired me, and all those negative people that were just making me feel like or trying to make me feel like I was not going to get anywhere motivated me to try harder.

And all those challenges just motivated me to keep going because I really dislike it when our Pacific Islander community people are stereotyped as not being able to do anything, or we’re just good at rugby, or we’re just only good at singing, that’s a good thing, or we’re all going to end up working in a factory or fruit picking.

So I just wanted to completely change that. So throughout my school life, yeah, a lot of people would compliment, not compliment me, sorry. They would say, “So what are you going to do after school? Going to go work at a factory.” And I just took that as a motivation for me to work harder and to prove those people wrong that us as Islanders, we are more capable and we have so much potential to do better in life and not just be factory workers or work at Macca’s, nothing wrong with that. But that we can be doctors, we can be lawyers, we can be police officers, we can do whatever we want. We just got to have faith in ourselves and not let any of those people put us down. And yeah.

University and Extracurricular Responsibilities

As I said in the beginning, I’m the oldest of 12. So you can imagine how busy my life is. I have so much responsibilities. I am working a part-time job as a waitress. And I’m currently in my third year of uni. So I’m actually studying a Bachelor of Arts degree, and doing a criminal justice major with that.

I am also a part of church. So I have a lot of roles in the church. So I am a youth leader, I help the youth in my church. I’m assistant band leader, I play the piano, so I’m the main piano player for our church. Also, I just help with vocals and help with different instruments and help teach young kids as well. And I’m also a Sunday school teacher. So I have a lot of roles in the church, and because I’m the oldest and my parents are actually pastors as well.

My whole entire church and all of my siblings are looking up to me, and I hope that I’m inspiring them. And all these different responsibilities that are put onto me, it pressures me, and you have to work really hard to try and live up to your parents’ standards.

Yeah, so I have that pressure on me, not saying that it’s bad. It’s actually pretty good, as well. But yeah, also I play sports. So my life is just currently busy every single day from Monday all the way to Sunday. We have church ministries every single day.

Primary School and Support from Parents


When you were just remembering back in your primary years, were there any particular subjects that you really loved that you did well in? And I just want you to remember too, what was it like when you were in school? Having homework and having to do particular projects and things like that when we’re going through school. What sort of support did you get from the school? And were your parents involved in a lot of your homework and helping with your stuff at home too? What was that like for you growing up?


Yup. So in primary school, actually, I really loved art and I loved writing. And to this day, I still love writing, I love English, which is weird for other Islanders when I say that I love English. They’re like, “What is wrong with you?”

I loved English, writing, I love art. Yeah, my experience at primary school, I could remember every single day,  I live to this day, and I remember all the trauma that I went through because I was bullied to the point where I was physically abused by kids as well. And I just couldn’t stand up for myself.

I went through a lot in primary school from prep up to grade three, where I was physically abused from other kids. And there was a lot of racism.

But at home, when I would come home, I wouldn’t tell my parents. At my young age I just wouldn’t share anything at all to them. But my parents were very, very supportive. And even when I bring my homework home, my mum was that type, she’s on top of everything, she’s always helping us with our schoolwork. If dad was at work, he would come home, and he would check over with us as well.

They were always at our school events, all our concerts. From us having the right correct uniform, mum and dad were always on point with that. And I know, with some of our Islanders now, especially in our community, when I go past schools, I see that our Islander kids are not wearing uniform. And some kids are out of school early and the kids that are out of school early is our Pacific Islanders.

And I think it’s because they don’t have that support from their parents. But I was actually so blessed to have supporting parents from a young age up till now who never ever had the incorrect uniform, always up to date with our homework, always getting us kids to study because we have a timetable at home whereas soon as we get home, even though we finished six hours of school, they make us go over the work we did at school.

And studying and education is one of the number one things here in our family, and also keeping active and healthy. So just to have the support from my parents, they were always there for us, and they weren’t out just working, working, trying to earn some money. They sacrificed what they wanted to do in their careers for all 12 of their kids, especially for me.

So my parents have sacrificed a lot to get me to where I am today. And just to have their advice and support every single day. And also, all of my siblings and I we all play sports. So you can imagine what Saturdays would be like from 9 till 5 at night is everyone’s playing sport.

And, yeah, just growing up, I had a really good life at home. I’m so blessed to have had great, amazing supportive parents who helped me every single day and helped me stay in line and not get distracted and go off the wrong track. So yeah. Now that I’m currently 20, they’re still on my back about everything, “Always remember education and your sport and church,” so, my music, especially my music. So yeah, it’s really good.

Balancing Study with other Responsibilities


How do you manage to balance your schooling and keeping up your university grades now that you’re in your final year, how do you balance all of that, as well as continue to balance all of your other priorities within the church, within your family, helping your parents?

How do you find time to make sure that you’re still getting what you need to get done for yourself, but still doing all the other parts that are important in your life too?


Yeah, a lot of people ask me that question. They’re like, “How do you do that with so much different responsibilities?” So for those who don’t know me, I’m a very organised person and I have a calendar, I have a diary. And I set up my week. So every Sunday night, I will have my diary and I have my schedule and I have my roster and I organise everything, I colour code, everything from Monday all the way to Sunday, and I have different times and the times are different colours.

So that way, I know what I’m doing every single day, and not just like, “Oh, yeah, I am going to do that and then that.” So yeah, it’s weird as well. I know I want to be different; you know what I mean? I just don’t want to be, “Oh, let’s just go with the flow.” And be like, “Oh, let’s do Islander time.” I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of that, Islander time.

But I’m that type of person who wants to keep schedule. And that way I can get used to it and create good habits that could help me not now, but also in the future as well. And that’s why, with having a big family, it’s good to have things on schedule because if you don’t, everything’s just going to fall.

I have a diary here that I use every single day and then my calendar, and everything I’ve put up on my wall so that when the new week starts, I know what I’m doing. And I organise everything from my sport to church roles, to when I work, to my uni assignments. I have to space everything out and I sit there for a good two hours max. Two hours of planning my whole entire week out.

If something changes, then I have to improvise and change my whole entire plan. But yeah, that’s how I organise everything as I use my diary and colour code everything because it’s really important to be organised. Otherwise, I’ll be messy.


Because you’re such an amazing, you organise everything to a T, where did you learn these skills? Did you learn that in school? Did you learn it from your parents? How did you know that this was just part of your life? Meaning structuring things in a way, was important to you. Where did you learn that particular skill?


So my mum, she’s a clean freak. Ever since growing up, I’ve just watched my mum. Every single day, she’s on our backs about everything, homework. She has her own diary. She does everything. And because she has so many kids, she writes down, “Oh, yeah, I got meetings today. I got doctor’s appointments today.” And then she’s always on top of everything.

And I think I learned it from her. And then ever since just being in school, I was that type of person if the teacher gave us a mini assignment. People just hand it in with just a random paper they ripped out of the book, they just scribbled it, I would be the type where everything is done neatly in colour and put in a nice folder that I went and bought and given it to them. I was just that type who I can’t give work to my teachers that was just done without any effort.

I had to everything at school, even projects, assignments, that was one thing I would mention that I actually scored high in school was actually when I did projects on posters and stuff by myself or if I gave oral presentations because I loved public speaking. Because my presentation was really good because I wanted the teachers to see that I actually cared about what I was doing.

And I just wanted to let my sibling see that as well. Because when I see them go hand in a project and it doesn’t look good, I sit them back down like, “Hey, let me help you there.” It has to look good, but not only look good, the information must be good as well.

So yeah, I think just looking and growing up with my mum, she’s always just been that organised person whereas my dad is go with the flow type. But my mum, I learned it from her. And that’s why to this day now, she’s always on to my back even now, “Did you do your diary? Did you do your roster? Did you organise everything?” So, yeah, I’m grateful

It’s because I’m a freak perfectionist person. So I must have everything perfect. And I know sometimes my siblings and some family members, they don’t really like that. I want everything perfect. And then sometimes if nothing goes my way, I get really upset, which is really bad. But there are some points where you have to be patient as well, which I’m working on.

But yeah, I’m a freak perfectionist. So everything has to be perfect, not just from my uni and from my diary and everything, meaning when I’m at church, as well, doing every single thing when I’m at home, cleaning my room. It’s got to be nice and clean and good, perfect.

First Job


So when you have been into high school, and then could you just tell me a little bit about what it was like when you first got your first job? And what did you have to do to get your first job? Did anybody help you to write your resume? What was it like when you went for interviews? How did you develop your confidence in those areas, when you were trying to find some part-time work?


Yeah, so I actually didn’t get a job at all when I was in school because my parents said to focus on your education. So I got my first job when I finished school. So when I finished 2018, I got my first job as a waitress at the start of 2019. And so I’ve never ever been to a job interview before. But I know what it would be like because I used to do industry and enterprise in year 11. So I knew what it would be like and I knew how to do a resume, a CV.

But I had the help from my dad. But then also within my church, I had some families who worked for this place, they help people get jobs

Anyways, actually she got me a job. So she just said to go drop off your resume, your cover letter. And then I had an interview with the boss. I dressed up all nice and fancy, when it was just a waitress job because I actually didn’t know what to wear. So I just dressed up nice, like what I’m wearing now. And I just walked into the restaurant, and he was like, “You’re dressed up nice for a restaurant job.”

And I was like, “I didn’t know what else to wear.” So yeah, he looked over. And he called me back and then I went in for another, just for a trial run. And then that’s how I got my first job because I had the support from others. But then I also had my parents to help me as well. They would sit with me and say, “All right, speak to us as if you’re going to…” Because that’s what I was saying from the beginning. I’m blessed to have parents who actually care about what I’m doing.

So they actually got me to sit down and talk to them as if I’m at the interview as well. So that was good.

University and Finding a Direction


So going through university, what’s that experience been like for you with your study? And how are you finding…how did you decide that you wanted to do criminal law as your major? And what do you intend to do with that when you finish?


Yup. So at school, I first started by wanting to do police force because it’s just a dream of mine that I’ve always wanted ever since I was young, but then I had teachers that said, “Oh, maybe you should look at something else, you might not pursue that career.” So I had that negativity from school as well. And especially when I said I wanted to go to university, some of my teachers like, “Maybe were you wanting to look at TAFE or something?”

They just doubted me straight away, just because I’m a Samoan, I’m a Pacific Islander. So I was like, “Oh.” So then I just got that feeling that my teachers just thought I wasn’t going to do good enough to go to university. And because my grades were not the best, they were okay, so that’s why they were like, “Oh, yeah. You won’t make it to Melbourne University”. Specifically, those words, “You won’t get to Melbourne University with what your grades are looking at right now.”

So I set those aside, and I finished year 12. And I went straight into university doing Bachelor of Arts. And it wasn’t until halfway through the second year, and my teacher came up to me. And she said, “When you share and when you do oral presentations, I hear the justice in your voice. When you speak, you know what you want, and you’re very confident and I feel like you would be good if you did a criminal justice major.”

And I was like, “Oh, I actually was going to ask you a question if there was anything like that here in Shepparton,” because we just had sociology, psychology and stuff like that. So it was actually a new major that they bought in to university. So I was like, “Yes, I want to do that.”

And I was actually going into the road of doing education. But then I was like, “No, I don’t want to do that. I want to actually do what I want.” And I was praying and praying. And finally, the teacher, God answered my prayers, when she came up to me and told me about that. And I said, “Yes, I’m going to do that next semester.” So I started that last year and I love it. And it’s just helping me understand our world, how secular our world is, all the different things that are happening with law and power and justice.

And then I’m also doing victimology as well. It’s just really good to see how our world is working. And it also it’s really great because I want to pursue a career in the police force as well. And by having that knowledge with how our law works, how the law works in the government around the world, , it’s helping me gain that knowledge. So when I go to the police force, I know what I’m going to be doing.

And with the police force, they’re like, “Oh, can’t you just apply for it anyways, you don’t need to go to uni.” Yeah, but I want to get a degree as well.

Language and Pacific Community


How much of your culture do you practice at home? Do you go to a Samoan church, and do you speak a lot of your language at home? Do you find that your parents are involved within the Samoan community a lot? Do you get to travel? What’s that like for you?


Yeah. So being involved with Samoan community and also speaking Samoan is very important to me as well. No, I don’t go to a Samoan church. Our church is a worship centre. And our church is open to anyone. So as you said, it’s very diverse in there, but mostly we have a lot of Samoan as my family.

But at home, I speak I Samoan as well, I’m not fluent. I’m still practicing and dad and mum, they always tell us, “It’s important to know your background, where your parents came from and speak the mother tongue of our country, of where our parents are born.” And because I was born in Australia, I’m not really fluent with Samoan, but I’m getting there. We’re practising every single day. I know how to say a few things. And I feel like it’s a very, very important for all our Pacific Islanders to practice their culture. And yeah. When COVID wasn’t around, we travelled nearly every single year to Samoa. So we’d go to New Zealand first, and then we’d go to Samoa, and then back to New Zealand, and back to Australia. And that was an every year tradition for our family. We did that every year.

And I just love going back there to see our family, and to just be with them and be where our parents grew up. I love going back home to where they grew up. But yeah, we practice a lot. We do church at home, we sing in our culture, as well. So growing up, I love how we had that balance. It’s not just speaking English. You know what I mean? And just speaking Samoan. We have that balance where we both speak Samoan and English at the same time, at home and at church. Yes.

Advice for Youth


What are some of the things that you could suggest to encourage our youth as they’re growing up?

If you find, for example, you’re having a conversation with someone that’s younger than you that might need some advice, what are some of the things that you would impart? Based on what you know, based on some of your leadership roles and based on your experience, what would you suggest that you… what would you say to encourage and inspire other youth that are watching your journey? And also too if they want to consider pursuing the police force, what do you suggest to them that they do to get there?


Yeah, okay. So much pressure. Yeah, well, I know, with our youth are growing up, they might not have that support that they want. And I get, everyone goes through their hardships and goes through different trials every single day. And I guess that’s what makes our Pacific Islander youth lose that motivation and that urge to want to keep moving forward. So they just they don’t push to the capabilities that they have.

Because I’m not saying that I had a bad upbringing, I had a really good upbringing. I had that good support system from my parents. And I had the support from some of my family, but mainly my parents. So I wouldn’t say that I was struggling.

But if I was to give advice to all my Pacific Islander brothers and sisters out there, it would be, take it step by step. Even though if you feel like you’re struggling, if you feel like you’re not going to get anywhere. If you really, really want something, you’ve got to set your mind to it, you’ve got to write down your goals.

And as hard as it is, and you may not have the people that will support you, you are your own person. You can do whatever you want in life, and you can pursue whatever you want. You just have to believe in yourself, have faith in yourself, trust in yourself that you can get there day by day and block out whatever everyone is saying to you or if you don’t even have that support.

If you want the support from your parents, show them that you want their support. Be there, talk to your parents. They may not be that type that want to help you, or they may not show it. They may be just out there but sit down with them and tell them, “Mum and dad, I want you to help me, I want to pursue this, will you help me?”

It may not go the way you want it to go, or it may go your way. And don’t let cost or don’t let people stereotype you or anything hold you back because there are some things that can be like, “Oh, very expensive, I can’t do that.” Just risk it, just go and take it because you never know where it can take you.

And I know you might say, “Oh, it’s easy for you to say. This, this, that.” But it’s actually hard as well for me if I want to, because pursuing a career in the police force, there’s a lot of things that I have to do to get there. But it’s all about being patient and just having that good endurance, just trying to stick to the path.

And also, being careful with the people that you hang around with. It’s really important to have good friends. I know that as well for myself. My parents have taught me that as well. That they said to me, they know the type of person you are from the friends that you hang out with. So it’s very important to surround yourself with people that actually care about what you’re doing. And that’s what I feel like I went through school is I surrounded myself with kids who wanted to strive for the better.

Not saying our Islander kids didn’t want to. It’s just that I was just surrounded by a lot of kids at my school that were getting good grades, kids who would actually work well with me and kids who wanted to pursue and have great careers, great jobs for their career, being financially stable, stuff like that.

And that’s why I am the person I am today, because I’ve had all those different experiences that had helped me and then the support from my parents. So just take it day by day, and it’s going to be very hard to try and keep up to the standards of other people. But it’s just all about being patient and just having that  faith in yourself that you can do it. Because I believe that we are so much more capable of doing whatever we want in this world.

Staying Focused


So, Ashirah, in a world where everything is digital. And there’s social media and everything that we do now is online and there’s Twitter, there’s Instagram, there’s TikTok, there’s Snapchat. How do you as a young person navigate balancing the temptation to not to be sucked into all of these different social media platforms?

So how do you stay focused? What are some of the things that you do to stay focused? And how do you manage with the temptation to be on social media all the time?


Yeah, so I didn’t get my first ever phone until I finished school. So my parents, yeah, like I said, it was all about studying, education. “You will get your phone after year 12.” I’ve used my parents’ phone before, but then when I got a phone, it was new to me. I would ask people, “How do you do this? How do you do that?” And they would look at me weird like, “It’s a phone, don’t you know how to use it.” I’m like, “This is my first phone.” I just finished school. So it was just weird for people to see that.

And I will admit, it is hard for me to stay off social media sometimes, even though I said I’m a really organised person. There are sometimes when you know, when you’re just feeling like, “Oh, I can’t be bothered today.” Or when you’re in your schedule and then you just you feel tired, your brain is tired, you just feel like you need a break. And then you’re just on your phone and then you just sit there and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been on it for way too long.”

And it’s also good to have my parents on my back. So when I say I’m blessed to have my parents as my support system, they are on my backs with my phone as well. “Ashirah, off your phone now.” I’m like, “Yup.” I get off my phone then I go back to work. And as hard as it is, you’ve got to actually self-discipline yourself to the point where you know, “Is this going to help me move forward? Is this going to help me finish my essay or am I just going to procrastinate? And just stay here on my phone the whole entire time.”

If you know it’s not going to help you, you’ve got to put it away. As hard as it is, you just want to see that last comment or that last video, TikTok and everything. It’s really hard to put it away, but if it’s not helping you, you have to put it aside. So that’s how I balanced it out, especially with my parents’ help. It’s good to have them remind me because sometimes I would just sit there and then they just remind me, “Ashirah, your phone.” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s going, it’s going. It’s going now. It’s going away.”

Role Models


Are there any role models that you have looked up growing up or even now that could be a role model within the industry that you like or a role model within your personal life or your church life or family life, whatever? Is there anybody in your life or are there people in your life that you’ve always looked to that you have found inspirational, or you look to mentors, that you’ve always referred to going, “Yeah, I just love the way this person or these people inspire me.”


Yeah, so every time a person asks me that I always mentioned my dad. My dad is my role model. And he’s my inspiration for me studying as well. People have different reasons why they want to study or why they want a degree.

One, is because I want to inspire our young Pacific Islanders to get a degree, that they can get a degree. Another reason being I want to be the second Scanlan at university, to graduate in Shepparton. Third, to get a degree is a really big thing for a Pacific Islander. So I want to do that. And then another thing is just to make my parents proud, to show them what I have become because of their support.

And, yeah, my dad, he’s helped me ever since I was born till now. Not saying my mum doesn’t, my mum does. But my dad is my role model because every day he inspires me, he advises me, supports me. He’s kept me off the wrong track.

There are sometimes where we get distracted in life, and I’m just so happy to have my dad there. He’s always, Ashirah, is that where you want to head? If you want to do great in life stick on the right track. It’s really hard, because you need a lot of humility and patience to stay on the right track.

And my mum, on the other hand, she’s my role model as well. She dropped out of school at a young age, just so she could provide for her younger siblings. And I want to use that to motivate myself to do what my mum couldn’t, but be an inspiration for my younger siblings, as what my mum did. Because her siblings tell me to this day that, that my mum inspires them because she dropped out of school for them, to support them. And I want to do that for my siblings as well.

That’s the reason why I study and that’s the reason why I do everything because my parents, they’re my role models. My dad, they help me every single day, and I just hope to inspire not only just my siblings, but our Samoan community just to keep going the right way. But yeah, my parents, my dad are my biggest role models.

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