Kirner Kosky Scholarship recipient gives back

Receiving the Kirner Kosky Scholarship started the journey for alumna, Wiradjuri woman Tahlia Zayat.

During her first year of study, Tahlia showed huge potential as an inspirational future leader, and was awarded a Kirner Kosky Scholarship. Each year, two scholarships are awarded to support two female students from Melbourne’s west who have faced barriers in their education, for the duration of their degree.

The scholarship fund honours two remarkable women – former Premier, The Hon Joan Kirner and former Minister for Education, the Hon Lynne Kosky – who both championed Melbourne’s western region in everything they did. VU established the fund which bears both names to acknowledge the many parallels in their careers, their shared commitment to education and their own strong personal connection.

Tahlia is the first Kirner Kosky scholarship graduate and we are proud to share her story with you.

It all began with a passion

Even as a teen, Tahlia felt drawn to a career helping people. Becoming an advocate for Aboriginal people was her ultimate goal. Now, thanks to the guidance of family, and the confidence she gained at Victoria University (VU), she is fulfilling her dream.

I’ve always been proud of where I come from. I’m an Aboriginal woman (Wiradjuri, NSW), born and raised in Melbourne with a Lebanese-Muslim dad. My mother, grandmother and aunties have always kept my culture alive for me in a society, which – for generations – has taught false history.

"I started studying psychology at another uni, but as I began to realise it wasn’t for me, I discovered a love for criminology and criminal justice. I decided to focus on those so I enrolled in the Bachelor of Criminal Justice at VU. I related all of my assignments to helping Aboriginal communities and delved into the injustices our people face. Understanding the criminal justice system came so naturally to me.

Finding support at VU

When I arrived on campus, I met with Karen Jackson, Director of VU’s Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit. She showed me around and put me at ease as I settled into an unfamiliar university.

One of the great things about VU is the support you receive from staff. I always felt comfortable emailing my teachers for help, or knocking on Moondani Balluk’s door if I felt overwhelmed.

Making a difference, finding her place

Since graduating, I’ve had the privilege to work in several fulfilling positions, including at Ravenhall Correctional Centre as an Aboriginal Transitional Officer – helping Aboriginal men transition smoothly back into society. I also worked with Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), with victims and perpetrators of family violence.

My current position at VALS is with the new Baggarrook Program – a transitional housing support service, working with incarcerated Aboriginal women who are at risk of homelessness and have experienced severe family violence. I have learnt so much in this short amount of time.

My long-term goal was always to return to my community and help in any way that I could, and I’m so proud to be beginning that journey.

There is no greater investment than to educate tomorrow’s leaders. Will you support and empower a student like Tahlia today?

You can give to the Kirner Kosky Scholarship today at Kirner Kosky Scholarship Fund.