Health science student and pool and open water swimmer Bianca Crisp and education student and netballer Beryl Friday were awarded the scholarships, worth $11,000 per year of full-time study for up to four years for each student in a joint funding arrangement between Griffith University and Commonwealth Games Australia.
Griffith Sports Engagement Director Duncan Free OAM said the athletes were selected from a talented pool of individuals and that the scholarship was a significant opportunity for them.
“I’ve learnt so much about Bianca and Beryl and the works and connectivity they have with the Indigenous community, including reconciliation,” Mr Free said.
“Their passion is very evident.”
“Ron Clarke was a great man, a great ambassador for sport, and an unbelievable athlete in his own right who has left us an amazing legacy.
“We could not be prouder of these two students and I’m sure they will be wonderful ambassadors, just as Ron was.”
Ron Clarke AM MBE was not just an Olympic and Commonwealth athlete who set 17 run world records over distances from 3.2km to 20km, but also a qualified accountant.
He served as Gold Coast Mayor from 2004 to 2012, and was instrumental in securing the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Bianca, a proud Wiradjuri woman, is keen to pursue a career in research to become a specialised medical practitioner, before eventually studying a Doctor of Medicine.
“Since starting my degree at Griffith, my passion for learning and inquisition has profoundly deepened, sparking my interest in health, medicine and research,” Bianca said.
“Learning about the intricacies of life has opened up a whole new world to me, and I aspire to one day assist Australia’s First Peoples by contributing towards improving current health inequalities as a medical practitioner.”
Bianca has her sights set on the Australian Commonwealth Games Swimming Trials next year. She is also aiming to compete in the 10km marathon swim at the 2022 World Swimming Championships, with her ultimate goal being the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
With academic and sporting goals in mind, Bianca is grateful for the Ron Clarke Griffith Futures Scholarship as it will help her to dedicate more time to her sport and study.
“On top of my studies I train over 30 hours per week, including 10 swimming sessions, three gym sessions and up to three cycling and running sessions,” Bianca said.
“I strongly believe that when I dedicate myself to something, I should do it with everything I have.”
“I aspire to achieve to the best of my ability in both my sport and academics, and this scholarship allows me to continue doing that, which I am incredibly grateful for.”
Beryl, a former Queensland Firebird and current Ipswich Jets player, was extremely grateful for the recognition.
“This scholarship means the world to me as it allows me to focus more on my degree and community engagements,” she said.
“This type of support is really important as it allows First Nations students to really focus on their studies and have more time to stay connected to their mob without the financial struggles students can face.”
The Kuku Nyungkul woman, also a descendant of Olkola, Birrigubba and Kamilaroi nations, said her education degree would help her inform others of her mob’s customs, beliefs, and history.
“I have a real passion for education and have always loved to teach and educate others, particularly on my culture.”
Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy said the scholarship was a great initiative amid what had been a tough period for athletes globally.
“I feel quietly optimistic about the year ahead,” Ms McCarthy said.
“I really felt for the athletes last year, and while there were certainly a lot worse things going on, it was really difficult for athletes as their whole structure – including the daily training environment and certainty around competitions – was taken away.
“We are really pleased to see support for Indigenous athletes through this scholarship as now, more than ever, we need to support growing Indigenous representation at the elite level of sport.”
The Ron Clarke Griffith Futures Scholarship helps two students who are elite athletes, identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and are experiencing financial hardship or educational disadvantage.