The Student Support Fund offers immediate assistance to students who need help with essential items such as food, housing, and academic costs. Since 2020, more than 2,300 donors from our global community have raised in excess of $1.4 million to support students like Liam.
Today, third year Bachelor of Commerce student Liam is thriving in his studies, volunteering as part of the University community, and looking forward to a bright future. But when Liam was finishing high school five years ago, the idea of attending university felt out of reach.
“Growing up, I lived with a single mum who was on a disability support pension, so there wasn’t a lot of money flowing through the house,” shared Liam. “Just things like being able to pay for the internet each month was a bit of a struggle.”
Additionally, growing up in Colac – a small coastal town two hours from Melbourne – meant Liam had limited access to career development in high school.
I think one of the biggest difficulties of being a regional student is the sheer lack of opportunity compared to metropolitan counterparts; access to things like private tutors, apprenticeships and libraries.
When Liam began to consider university, he knew he would have to leave Colac and find accommodation closer to the city.
“I remember looking at my bank balance and thinking ‘how am I going to rent a house and pay the bond and buy a laptop?’ It was definitely a wakeup call.”
Studying in survival mode
It was these considerations that led Liam to delay his studies for 18 months so he could save up enough money to support himself through casual work.
After working hard to put away savings, Liam was able to begin studying at the University in 2019. He chose to major in politics and economics – areas he was always keenly interested in.
Although Liam was enjoying university, many of his experiences were tainted by his financial worries.
“In 2019, I was sharing a house and paying $150 per week. But even then, after the rent, the bills, and the food, I was living off $5 to $10 per week.
“It really consumed me. Instead of focusing on learning, I was focusing on how I was going to spread this money far enough to have food for the next three days.”
Then at the beginning of 2020, Liam received a housing bursary that relieved some financial pressure. Through receiving this support, Liam finally began to feel a sense of stability.
But not long after, COVID-19 changed everything.
“I was on campus for about four weeks before everything got shut down. I was forced to go home with nothing but a laptop and some pens and pencils to my name.”
Liam spent his second year of university studying remotely in Colac, in and out of lockdowns, missing all the experiences he had been enjoying on campus.
But thankfully, 2021 saw Liam move back to Melbourne through the support of our generous donors.
“I received a grant from the Student Support Fund at the start of 2021 and that helped me come back to Melbourne after returning home from the pandemic,” explained Liam.
Support leading to growth
Beyond aiding with more practical things like transport and rental costs in Melbourne, the financial support became so much more than just money to Liam.
The support has essentially allowed me to continue my studies. Otherwise, it would've been tough to be able to support myself financially and continue my education.
“Instead of having to work 30 hours a week while studying and trying to manage assignments and everything else, I've been able to spend the last three years building my character, learning new skills, meeting new people, and having an enriching life while I've been up here in Melbourne.
“That is what university's supposed to be.”
Receiving this invaluable support also helped Liam feel more connected to the University community – motivating him to give back through peer mentoring and ambassadorship programs.
“I think my purpose is to assist as many people as I can and give back in any way I can. And if I can make any small impact, I will.”
Investing in community
When Liam first applied to the University of Melbourne in 2019, he enrolled in an arts degree. But he soon realised his talents and passions lied elsewhere.
“I loved my economics class so much that I ended up transferring to Bachelor of Commerce,” said Liam.
While he’s not exactly sure of his future career path yet, Liam knows he wants to harness the support he’s received to make a difference – a sentiment he knows the generous donors who supported him share as well.
“I've learned more about myself and what I want to achieve during my time at university. I don't know what that is yet, but I want to work for a purpose,” said Liam.
“Through my studies, I've realised that education reverses inequality and it helps young people make the change they want to see in their communities.
“Donor support provides young people who have the ability and talent to attend university the opportunity to gain an education that they wouldn't otherwise have access to.”
And Liam knows that changing one person’s future can have a ripple effect on many others around them, too.
“Investing in someone’s education certainly has profound impacts. Not just on that person, but on the many different people they will positively impact throughout their career and their lifetime because of that education.”
Liam feels a deep sense of gratitude to the donors who made these formative changes in his life possible.
The donors are wonderful people that give young people like myself the gift of education
“You are reversing inequality, and giving young people hope and a chance at life. I just want to say thank you to all the donors that make that contribution and improve the lives of many.”