I’ve always been interested in politics and who gets to be heard. I remember watching Question Time in high school and thinking about how white it was compared to my reality as an Asian-Australian woman. I grew up in Melbourne and later the Gold Coast.
My family experienced financial hardship as I was growing up and I learned a lot seeing how hard my mum worked to make sure that we always had food on the table.
Going to university was not an easy process. I always dreamed of going to ANU because of its reputation in international relations and politics. I took a gap year to try and save enough money to afford to live at college as a first year, but my minimum wage job meant that by the end of it I could only afford 6 months of accommodation.
Getting the call to tell me that I had won the C.A.S Hawker scholarship was indescribable. I told my mum and we cried tears of happiness as this covered my residential fees for three years.
I knew that the scholarship would change everything for me; it meant I wouldn’t have to worry anymore about supporting myself through university and could embrace anything I wanted to.
Having that scholarship changed how I viewed my potential and what I had the power to do. I fully devoted myself to academics and, outside of university, advocacy. My career blossomed and my days became public speaking, media engagements, board meetings and other fascinating and enriching work around gender equality. At night, I spent countless hours poring through law textbooks and carefully wording essays. I think the best thing about the support was that I could just focus on things that were important to me. Without that support I couldn’t have done a fraction of the work that I did.
I studied a Bachelor of Laws/International Relations in 2018. I wanted to become a diplomat and work in international law. Over time, my aspirations changed and I realised that I found joy in analysing the hidden structures that lie beneath the law, politics and diplomacy. When it comes to the law, I began to question: who makes the law, who does it serve, and how does this create a system of power? As an advocate, I try to draw attention to invisible power and rules and envision how we create institutions that are fair for all.
I found that college life was quite a shock. As an Asian-Australian woman from a low-income background, there weren’t many people who came from similar backgrounds across race and class.
I deeply appreciated connecting with the few residents that also came from diverse backgrounds, and we all supported each other as we navigated our way through university and privilege. I keep that support system close to me to this day and it really helped me through tougher moments. I am also appreciative that I could live on campus.; it meant that I was close to all of my classes and the libraries. Being close to everything took a load off and enabled me to purely focus on studying – which I did. I was like a sponge to water.
I found so much strength, solidarity, support and friendship from students who were recipients of bursaries and financial need scholarships. We had all experienced barriers to getting university so we were really committed to make the most out of the opportunity to be there.
Experiencing hardship meant that we had seen the problems and gaps with our own eyes and all had a commitment to creating something better so other young people do not have to go through the same experience. It’s not just about the recipients: improving the diversity of the college enhances college life as a whole. As the future leaders of this country, college should be a place where we can meet people from all different backgrounds and walks of life before we go out into the wider world. The Bursary program enables this diversity to happen.
In 2022, I am currently in Melbourne, but I am gearing up to head to Oxford University later this year. I was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship and will study a Master of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Master of Public Policy. I will study intersectional public policy, focusing on how policy can better reflect the diversity of our society across gender, race, class and other factors.
Having the financial support to do the work I do was a crucial factor behind me receiving the Rhodes Scholarship and really shows the power of giving young people the means to follow their vision.
I am currently a youth advocate and public speaker where I speak about gender equality, politics and intersectionality. I am working in the Communications Teams at the World Bank Pacific and am the Board Director of OzHarvest and YWCA Australia. I’m also the National Ambassador of Plan International Australia, which does great work supporting girls that are interested in activism and politics. I also speak on media programs such as Q+A, The Drum and have guest hosted Compass.
No day is the same and I feel deeply grateful to do the work that I do.
Yasmin Poole (2019-2021)
C.A.S. Hawker Scholar (2019) & ANU Undergraduate Volunteer Award Recipient (2020)