LGBTIQ students around the country can now apply for one of The Pinnacle Foundation’s academic scholarships in 2019.
The scholarships provided by the national charity are open to marginalised or disadvantaged LGBTIQ youth aged 17 to 26 across Australia who are attending university, college or TAFE next year.
Damian Maher (pictured) began his academic studies at UQ with a degree in economics and art, before completing an honours degree in English literature. This year, Damien was awarded a prestigious Rhode Scholarship to study at Oxford University.
“I started in economics and law, but realised that literature is my passion,” he said.
“At Oxford, I’ll be studying a Masters in modern and contemporary literature, and hope to follow that with a doctorate in literature.”
Damian said he attended an all-boys Catholic School in Queensland where “being gay was not the thing to be.”
“Anything bad was ‘gay’ or ‘that’s so gay,’ in fact, I never once (in my eight years there) heard the word gay used in anything but a negative sense,” he said.
“Aside from the taunts and jeers from guys in my year, sadly common throughout most schools, the repression and the disdain from the school was intense. I left high school feeling unnatural, alone, and deeply cowardly.
“Teachers used the word “fag” and I remember distinctly sitting through two periods of religion where a teacher laboriously explained, with almost Spinoza-like rigour, how gay people cannot be good people. This sounds slightly comical, but in reality, it was just hurtful.”
After Damien was awarded a Pinnacle Scholarship, and was paired with a mentor, he then realised how sorely he had needed a gay mentor.
“I had come out, learnt much about gay culture, and had a supportive group of family and friends about me in the years since school, but even then I didn’t realise how significant a difference sitting down with someone every month and talking to them would make,” he said.
“It sounds simple, but seeing how comfortable my mentor was in his life with his partner, just made a whole bunch of things seem possible.
“Without the support of my mentor Dan Walker and Pinnacle Foundation I wouldn’t be heading off to Oxford on a scholarship, nor would I have returned to my school as (to my knowledge) the first openly gay speaker there. And for that, I am very grateful.”
Applications for the Pinnacle Foundation’s 2019 scholarships close on October 1, 2018. For more details and to apply, visit the website.