Empowering future Indigenous leaders

Growing up as a queer, neurodiverse Aboriginal person in a small rural town in NSW, Nick Harvey-Doyle never expected to one day be studying a Master of Arts on a Fulbright Scholarship at New York University. But that is exactly where he is today, and he couldn’t be happier.

Thanks to generous donors, Nick received support in completing his Graduate Certificate in Journalism (Advanced) through the I-LEAP program.
Thanks to generous donors, Nick Harvey-Doyle received support in completing his Graduate Certificate in Journalism (Advanced) through the I-LEAP program.

“I was the first person in my family to finish high school and obtain a tertiary education,” he said. “Through support from my network and my own tenacity and resilience, I am now studying in New York City and get to do things that teenage me would have never thought possible.”

After completing his law degree and working as a consultant in Indigenous affairs for three years, Nick’s love of storytelling and desire to bring diversity to the Australian media landscape trumped his plans for a legal career and set him on a more creative path.

"Skilled storytellers are a key foundation in sustaining an engaging, contemporary and representative media industry, and I am passionate about diverse storytelling and the incorporation of disparate lived experiences into Australian media, which is shaping the next phase of my career and professional goals."

Taking the leap

Thanks to the Indigenous Leadership, Excellence and Achievement Program (I-LEAP), Nick was able to refocus his legal career plans and complete the Graduate Certificate in Journalism (Advanced) at the University of Melbourne.

The financial support allowed me to take a step back from my career, focus on my studies, and help carve out the trajectory of my future career, studies and ambitions. Nick Harvey-Doyle

“I have never been someone who has had the privilege of studying without working to support myself and the difference in being able to apply myself fully to my study without the demands of work was incredibly freeing.”

I-LEAP provides pathways and opportunities for Indigenous students who show the potential to excel and provide leadership within their own community, as well as in society more broadly. It supports initiatives that span high school, university, graduation and beyond.

Since its establishment in 2015, the program has supported 66 Indigenous students to take crucial next steps into employment and life beyond university. Beneficiaries have included Rhodes scholars, and several students have received numerous other scholarships.

Exploring Indigenous stories

Having the time and space to explore his interests through his journalism course gave Nick opportunities he says he would have missed out on if he had stayed in a legal career.

“I am a true believer that reality is often more interesting than fiction and I explored several compelling stories when completing my program,” he said.

“I wrote an article on the impacts of freeing the Aboriginal flag from its copyright restrictions. I interviewed mental health professionals on the increase of ADHD diagnoses during the pandemic and the importance of accurate and robust treatment of the disorder. I created an audio story about incorporating Indigenous knowledge of Country and custom into modern place-making.”

He was able to do this because of the support he received through I-LEAP, most importantly through his mentors.

“Rural, Indigenous and socioeconomically disadvantaged students are severely under-represented at Australian universities. There are many complex factors that contribute to this, but the absence of mentors is often a key feature, so having programs that can offer mentorship and financial support are integral in achieving positive outcomes.

“This also isn’t siloed – those who are mentored often become mentors themselves, which is why these initiatives will always remain important,” he said.

Opening doors to the future

For Nick, switching to an arts focus was a decision that set him up for his next step, which was to undertake a Master of Arts in Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, supported by a Fulbright Scholarship and a scholarship from the American Australian Association.

“I want to understand the barriers to achieving meaningful and sustained representation in mainstream media,” he explained. “Ideally, I will bring this knowledge back to Australia to work with large media organisations on improving diversity both on and off screen, with a key focus on First Nations representation. I strongly believe that genuine representation within mainstream media is a key step in Australia’s reconciliation journey.

“My interests are vast and wide and fundamentally human in nature, and I love being able to tell stories that not only resonate with people, but also open doors to new ways of thinking, seeing and doing.

Every ounce of support I’ve received along the way has led me to where I am, so I just want to say, ‘thank you for playing a part in my journey’ Nick Harvey-Doyle