Keisha becomes first in family to graduate from uni

Published:21 October 2020

Keisha McEwan graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) at this week's Mackay ceremony.

Keisha McEwan still remembers the moment she enrolled in her degree.

“It was the very last day that enrolments were being accepted and as I clicked ‘submit’ I cried – part of me thought ‘what have you just done?’ and the other part thought ‘defy the odds and become the person you’re supposed to be’.

This week marked the realisation of that education dream as Keisha walked across the graduation stage at CQUniversity’s Mackay ceremony and received her Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) qualification.

This was the second qualification through CQUniversity for the 24-year-old – the first being a Certificate IV in Community Services which she completed after Year 12.

“When I completed that, I felt like I needed more knowledge and the skills to be able to support and help people who may have experienced situations like my own,” Keisha explained.

“I thought about university, but there was always that thought of ‘you’re not good enough for university’.

“Thankfully, I had incredible support people who challenged that thought and encouraged me to enrol in the Bachelor of Social Work.”

Mackay’s graduation ceremony was the first in-person ceremony since COVID-19 and despite come restrictions on numbers, Keisha was excited by the opportunity to graduate at a traditional ceremony.

“I didn’t think the day would come with COVID-19, so to actually be able to have an in-person graduation was very exciting.

“COVID-19 restrictions has made it impossible to have certain guests I really wanted there, like my sister from Townsville, but she travelled down with her partner and my nephew and watched the livestream then came to the MECC for photos.

"I now have the ability to have a significant impact on people’s lives."

- Keisha McEwan

“My brother also watched the livestream … it’s pretty special to have their support.”

Keisha’s siblings have been big supporters of her education journey.

“Being the first McEwan to attend and graduate uni, they were so supportive and encouraging.

“In my first year of uni my sister enrolled to CQUniversity to study a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood).

“I hope like my sister, I’ve inspired others to consider the uni journey.

“Self-improvement is about continuous growth, becoming better than you were yesterday and being valuable to the world.

“It is about building new positive habits and changing one’s behaviour and attitude. It is a way to make ourselves better and happier.”

Keisha is currently working for a mental wellbeing organisation, Selectability, on their Suicide Prevention Community Action Plan and also for the Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre running a DRUMBEAT program for social and emotional resilience.

“The degree has provided me with the knowledge and skill set to provide advice, support and resources to individuals and families.

“I now have the ability to have a significant impact on people’s lives in different but meaningful ways and that is something I will do with great pride and dedication.”

She also praised the opportunities the course provided her, including the opportunity to go to Cambodia on an Outbound Program in 2019 working with fellow social work and nursing students in communities affected by poverty and lack of services.

As an Indigenous graduate Keisha also received a cultural sash at this week’s graduation ceremony.

“Being the first to graduate in my family and as a proud Barkindji woman, wearing the cultural sash and accepting my degree was a moment that I’ll never forget.

“For me, this was a commitment to reconciliation and a reflection and celebration of the increasing number of Indigenous graduates.”