Scholarships change lives. More than 13 per cent of students at Curtin come from low socio-economic backgrounds – many of them relying on a scholarship to obtain a university qualification.
Peter Bradford would like more young people to have the opportunity to obtain a degree, as he did. Although his family couldn’t afford to send him to university, Bradford, and a generation of students like him, had the benefit of government support.
“When I was a student, tuition was more or less free. Government assistance paid for most of my living expenses and vacation work paid for the rest,” explains Bradford.
“The support I had is not available for the majority of today’s students, who have to deal with hefty living expenses and tuition fees. There is also a lot of competition for vacation work.”
After graduating with a degree in extractive metallurgy from the Western Australian School of Mines, Bradford has enjoyed an international career spanning 35 years. He is now CEO and managing director of the mining and exploration company, Independence Group NL.
Bradford is also Chair of the WAIT Alumni Scholarships Committee. As part of his role, he donates financially to help fund student scholarships – and he inspires others to do the same. Currently, Bradford is working closely with staff at Curtin’s Office of Advancement (OOA) on the committee’s donation campaign.
“Donating gives students the opportunity that I had – providing the life-changing gift of higher education,” he says.
“Our goal is to raise $2 million to help fund student scholarships. We can achieve that.”
Staff at the OOA know full well the gratitude felt by scholarship recipients for the philanthropy that provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They also know why people donate.
“It’s human connection,” says Chief Advancement Officer Celia Hurley, “and philanthropic endeavours that drive real change in the community. “Building relationships with people inside and outside the University are our highest priority.
“OOA staff help people to become part of a philanthropic mission. Even on challenging days they’re smiling – they love what they do and it shows.”
Hurley clearly has immense respect for her staff, who she says are a ‘brilliant blend’ of creative thinkers and problem solvers. For example, the Give to Change program launched in 2013 has been very successful in motivating Curtin staff to donate to meaningful projects, through a simple payroll deduction, which is matched dollar-for-dollar by the University.
“Staff donate to initiatives because they believe in them, and we welcome and admire the generosity of every person who gives,” Hurley explains.
“We’re also fortunate to have a Vice- Chancellor who donates regularly – she’s an inspirational leader in many ways.” Each of the OOA’s three small teams – Alumni & Community Relations, Advancement Support and Development – complements the others as they strive to strengthen philanthropy at Curtin.
They build meaningful, experiential relationships, and provide opportunities for people and their organisations to link up and bond. In addition to the WAIT Alumni Scholarships campaign, OOA is also launching its first Alumni Annual Appeal – inviting more than 15,000 WAIT and Curtin alumni to reconnect with the University and speak with current students.
“When students and graduates meet up they usually start by contrasting today and yesterday. The conversation then shifts to the commonalities of their university experience – lasting friendships, academic rigour, and the broadening of perspectives,” says Hurley.
The OOA is also helping the John Curtin Gallery to acquire 50 significant new artworks through the 50fifty initiative, which the University kickstarted with the acquisition of Canopy XXII (Time Generator) by one of Australia’s leading painters, Brian Blanchflower.
“Everyone can contribute to making great things happen – from giving someone a university education, to helping preserve and safely exhibit compelling Australian artworks,” says Hurley.