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Mission to improve young Indigenous lives drives Makayla

University of Southern Queensland student is ready to make her mark in the community
Makayla Wright is keen to make a difference in the lives of young Indigenous people.

A proud Aboriginal woman from Harrisville, who is studying Human Services at the University of Southern Queensland, the 18-year-old has seen her fair share of tragedy. 

“In the last eight months, I have had three people I know commit suicide,” Makayla said.

“Losing someone you know to suicide is absolutely awful and hard to grasp, but it has also made me stronger mentally and given me a thicker skin.

“I have quickly learnt that bad things happen in this world, but I know with the right support, anyone is capable of overcoming tough times and embrace positive change.”

Makayla, whose mother is a Gunggari woman from Mitchell in south-west Queensland, has a strong passion for Aboriginal health.

She wants to pursue a career in the mental health field so she can help vulnerable youths in need of support.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-24 are four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous Australians – a distressing statistic Makayla is well aware of.   

“I have seen the painful effect adversity can have on troubled teens who don’t get help,” she said.

“Most mental health problems start in adolescence and when mental illness is left untreated, life can quickly spiral out of control. 

“Indigenous kids are faced with a completely different set of challenges and are a higher risk of suicide than other young Australians. 

“There’s a lot more that can be done to improve the mental state of our Indigenous youth.”

Makayla is in her first year of a Bachelor of Human Services, majoring in Health and Social Wellbeing, at the University of Southern Queensland’s Ipswich campus.

The Boonah State High School graduate said she was on the right path to doing what she loves.

“I chose human services because it’s an area I feel I could make a difference,” she said. 

“I am the third person in my whole family to go to university, other than my sister and cousin, so I am determined to not waste this opportunity.

“I even quit my job at the start of the year so I could fully concentrate on my studies.”

Makayla said she was grateful to receive an Inland Rail scholarship earlier this year to support her university studies.

Awarded by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, the scholarship program is an initiative of the Inland Rail Skills Academy in partnership with the University of Southern Queensland.

It provides financial assistance of $5000 per year of study to regional students who want to further their education and pursue careers that benefit their regional communities.

“This financial boost has allowed me to focus on uni and to purchase textbooks and equipment, but more importantly it has given me more motivation to chase my dreams,” Makayla said.  

Makayla also credited the University’s College for Indigenous Studies, Education and Research, which provides students with assistance such as scholarships, tutoring and academic support.
usq student makayla smiling near a pond
University of Southern Queensland student Makayla Wright is pursuing a career in mental health.