Looking across the rim of his coffee cup, David Shelley vividly recalls the moments his life changed for the better.
It was only a few years ago that he had reached the depths of despair. He was homeless on the streets of Perth and the notion of a career was a far-fetched dream. Ludicrous, even.
“I’d had a hard life. I went into government homes when my parents’ marriage broke up. I lived on the streets and bad things happen there. I was unable to work. I was constantly in a rut,” he explains.
But when he found a place he could call home, his life started to turn around.
“For the first time in ages I had secure accommodation. When I got that place, I wanted to finish my schooling. I just had to get up and do something to change my life.”
He enrolled in Tuart College in Perth, which offered bridging programs and pathway courses to Curtin University.
“It gave me confidence. The teachers were so good – if someone else believes in you, you believe in yourself.
“One teacher inspired me to take a STAT test to get into uni. I didn’t think I’d get in, but I did pretty well!”
His results meant he was eligible to undertake a Curtin nursing degree – a subject he felt passionate about. But the expense of studying was a sticking point.
“I couldn’t afford it. I had no source of income other than the government,” he says.
One year later, and still keen to study, David applied for a Curtin scholarship and was thrilled to be awarded one.
“It was like the key to my future. I think my mum cried when I told her. She was very proud that I’d turned my life around. I’m the first one in my family to go to uni, and Curtin gave me that opportunity.”
Now in the third year of his nursing degree, he’s passing his units with distinction. He’s learning to be an effective member of an interprofessional healthcare team and has a clear future career path.
“Nursing is the science of compassion. I like human biology, and the physiology of disease is very interesting. I’d like to care for my mum as she’s getting older now, and I’d like to know how to care for her friends,” he says.
David’s mental strength is apparent, and he’s a source of inspiration to others who are facing life’s challenges.
“Anything’s possible with a bit of perseverance. I strongly suggest that young people and mature-age people take a chance and apply for a scholarship. It’s an enabler to a better future – you just have to get up and do it.”