Sisters strengthen family bonds at university

Three Indigenous sisters from Brimbank have completed the same degree at Victoria University, with plans to do their PhDs together next year.

The Lyons sisters – Rebecca, 34, Jaimie-Lea, 32, and Tanaya, 27— recently graduated with double degrees from VU’s Bachelor of Arts (Honours) as well as its Bachelor of Arts (Kyinandoo).

The Wiradjuri sisters say they first thought of going to university together about five years ago.

They had nearly enrolled in a business program before they found out about the Kyinandoo program – based at VU’s St Albans Campus – the only degree in the state focusing on Indigenous culture and values, and aimed particularly at students from Aboriginal backgrounds.

“We all have the same passion to create positive change for Indigenous people,” said Jaimie-Lea. “We could have done this separately but we are stronger together.”

During their four-year degrees, the women turned their own family background and their father’s experience as a member of the stolen generation into academic research.

Each wrote about an aspect of it for their honours’ theses, with all receiving top marks for their work.

Rebecca wrote about the struggle for her father’s original birth certificate; Tanaya about the effect of institutionalising Indigenous people and removing them from their country; and Jaimie-Lea about racism and genocide.

“Our father is very proud of us and was our inspiration for our studies,” said Rebecca. “When we first started, we didn’t think an honours degree was possible and now we’re planning on PhDs.”

The sisters say they have been close all their lives, and continue to live near each other and their parents in the same suburb.

“It never occurred to us that doing everything together was that special – our family is incredibly close and we’ve always had a great respect for one another,” said Tanaya.

Now researchers at VU’s Moondani Balluk Academic Unit, the sisters continue working together on a project with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service related to the Royal Commission’s investigation into child abuse in institutions.

“Our children are proud that their mums are students just like they are,” said Jaimie-Lea. “Our studies have showed them the importance of having a higher education, and that they can achieve anything.”


Victoria University encourages people with Indigenous backgrounds or those interested in studying Indigenous culture to get in touch with us.

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