A new bursary dedicated solely to a tertiary student with a psychiatric illness will be introduced next year at Griffith University.
The bursary is the brainchild of Deborah Pagura-Inglis and her son Ben, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 12.
Winning a landmark case against Education Queensland when Ben (pictured) was expelled from the school system because his illness meant he was frequently absent, the Paguras wanted to do something worthwhile with their compensation payout.
After seeing the change in Ben since he was accepted into the Queensland Conservatorium’s preparatory program three years ago, they realised a bursary would be the perfect way to give back.
“Since Ben’s been studying, there’s been a noticeable change in his confidence,” Deborah says.
“He’s gone from being unable to hold a conversation to engaging and initiating contact with people. He has done remarkably well in his studies, and finds having a goal and something to focus on a relief from his illness.”
It has not been all smooth sailing for Ben though, as he has required extra tutorial support to pursue his study.
This is a gap the bursary aims to fill, as it will provide tutorial support to a Conservatorium student with a diagnosed psychiatric impairment.
“It’s so important that we start to recognise the value of people with a mental illness, and the fact that they are capable of achieving. They may take a different path to reach their goals, but if you provide them with the help and support they need they can get there in the end.
“This is why we were so keen to establish this scholarship, to start breaking down the stigma and perceptions surrounding people with a mental illness.
“We are hopeful that other members of the community will see the merit of the scholarship and dedicate funds to it.”
Deborah said the experience had been mutually beneficial; those involved with Ben’s academic journey learning so much about the effects a severe mental illness can have on a student’s overall functioning, and their ability to meet academic workloads.
“Ben was the first student permitted to undertake the preparatory program over three years, instead of the usual one. This kind of flexibility and understanding is crucial for students experiencing any disability.”
Ben’s achievements against all odds — including being awarded Mansfield’s Young Citizen of the Year — have been so inspiring that a thesis is currently being written about him.
Ben hopes to continue his studies in music technology, eventually leading to a career in sound engineering.
To make a donation to the Benjamin Pagura Bursary call 07 3735 6241.
MENTAL HEALTH WEEK RUNS FROM 7-13 OCTOBER.
MEDIA CONTACT: Corporate Communications Officer Sara Collins 07 3735 6458, 0418 799 544.