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Angelina Inthavong on the life-changing impact of scholarships

Chair of the Diversity Committee, Angelina Inthavong, gave the following speech at the Back-to-Burg Alumni & Friends Dinner on 19 August 2023.

I’d like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land on which we’re meeting, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people. I’d also like to extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here today. The word Canberra means meeting place, and as the longest continuing culture on earth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were meeting here long before colonisation, so while we’re all meeting here this weekend make sure that you create positive change.

Good evening, Principal Sally Renouf, members of council, alumni, and other esteemed guests. In his absence, I’d also like to wish Board Chair Greg Mills a very happy birthday.

Hi, my name is Angelina Inthavong, I use she/her pronouns and I’m currently a 2nd year Burgmann resident studying a Bachelor of Health Science with a Master of Public Health. I have been the Chair of the Diversity Committee at Burgmann for the last two years and I was also one of the 2023 recipients of the life-changing C.A.S. Hawker Scholarship.

As we would all know, going to Burgmann College is a dream. It’s the place you start to spread your wings, forge lifelong friendships, and grow into doers, leaders, change-makers and unique thinkers. But not everyone has the financial means to join our community and live this dream.

For me, my scholarship transformed my life. It reframed what I thought I could achieve in life and empowered me to believe that quite literally there are no limits to what I could put my mind to.

Tonight, I’d love to tell my story and how your donation to the Burgmann Bursary and Scholarship Appeal can change someone’s life.

My parents left Cambodia and Laos as children fleeing genocide and conflict. I grew up on the Gold Coast in Queensland and as a result still haven’t acclimatised to the Canberra cold. I come from a low socioeconomic background and grew up in single income household for a while. I went to schools where I was one of the only people of colour, have and continue to face racism, and identify I as a Queer woman.

All my life I struggled with my identity in a world that many times tried to make me feel invisible, lesser than, and often silenced. However, using this a catalyst for change I have continued to amplify lived experience, empower other people from diverse backgrounds and increase diversity in decision-making.

In 2021, when I was still in high school, I was very privileged to be elected Queensland’s Youth Health Minister. I led my portfolio to create an innovative Youth Bill to end period poverty which was presented to the Minister for Health and Minister for Youth. That same year, I founded a youth-led non-profit to provide a support group for young women and gender diverse people going through tough times.

However, scholarships and bursaries are not only life-changing for one person. Yes, I am now able to study my dream degree at my dream university and yes, I’ve met lifelong friends. However, through the financial freedom and security my scholarship has awarded me, I have been able to pursue so many opportunities with non-profits, state, federal and foreign governments to lead positive systems changes. And due to many unique opportunities, that Canberra offers in particular, I have quite literally managed to, as my dad always said, “leave the world a better place than (I) found it”.

At Burgmann, I have been Chair of the Diversity Committee for two years now. I work with diverse Burgmann residents (e.g., ethno-culturally diverse, religiously diverse, LGBTQIA+, low SES, rural and remote, neurodiverse and people with disabilities, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents) to create a more inclusive and diverse Burg. We run social events from morning teas and movie nights to educational events such as panels and fireside chats. We have also recently been working with Sally and Amelia to fundraise for the Burgmann Scholarship and Bursaries Appeal, with a student-led fundraiser occurring in October.

Over my time at Burgmann and ANU, I have also been an academic Rep on Burgmann’s Finance Committee and a first-year executive member of the Black Indigenous and People of Colour Department at ANU, where I organised social events and spoke at rallies against racism. This year, I also co-founded and am now the President of the Health Student Society at ANU for all students studying with the College of Health and Medicine.

I’ve been fortunate to affect wider positive change in Australia and globally as a youth and health equity advocate.

For example, I have pitched a policy to the U.S. Embassy on improving access to sexual and reproductive health services in the Indo-Pacific through USAID. I also advocated for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network and the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Youth Reference Group. As a 2023 Youth Activist with Plan International Australia, an international charity for girls’ equality, I helped write ‘A Tough Period’ report, which detailed the experiences of young Australians dealing with the cost-of-living crisis and how it affects their menstruation and sexual/reproductive health. With Plan International I have also spoken at the Women Deliver Ocean Pacific Dialogue and am working on a Global Youth Research Project with other Youth Activists in Nepal and Indonesia on the impacts of climate change on girls’ access to education. I was a finalist in the 2022 Gold Coast Young Australian of the Year Awards, I was the Under 25 Rising Star Category Winner of the 2022 40 Under 40 Asian Australian Leadership Awards, and I am now extremely excited to be a Board Member of Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT.

Now, I would just like to emphasis that if you took one thing away tonight, I want that one thing to be the importance of donating to the Burgmann Bursary and Scholarship appeal.

There are so many young talented people who reach out to me asking for advice on accessing scholarships, but there just aren’t enough scholarships and large enough scholarships that cover the increased cost of living.

Burgmann was a dream for all of us and now you have the chance to give others the opportunity to live out the Burgmann dream.

Please donate. Make a yearly donation. Set up a scholarship in your name and potentially offer an internship or mentorship to go with it.

You will not only be changing one person’s life but the countless others they help change as well.

Thank you so much and have a wonderful rest of your night!

Angelina Inthavong
Chair of the Diversity Committee

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Angelina Inthavong delivering her speech at the Back-to-Burg Alumni & Friends Dinner 2023 (image credit: Collections From Him)
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