Despite living more than 1000 kms away from the nearest CQUniversity campus' Bachelor of Nursing student Brianna Barker has never let distance hold her back.
The Weipa resident' located in Far North Queensland' is studying online while completing the practical components of her course through residential schools at CQUniversity Cairns.
"Weipa is a very isolated town' so being a full-time mum with limited day-care options and a high cost of living is very difficult. With all this taken into consideration' I was quite nervous to start my nursing journey'" Brianna said.
"Fortunately' CQU has been very supportive every step of the way.
"I started my study journey as a young mum with a newborn. I went to my first residential school still breastfeeding' and my teachers were very accommodating to this.
"When I am back home' all the lectures are recorded' and I receive lots of help via email and Zoom if needed. I have received lots of support while on placement from the unit coordinators' which relieves a lot of my stress about being so far away from a campus."
Brianna said she was thankful for the support she had received through a CQUniCares Connellan Airways Trust Scholarship in her first year of study which allowed her to make the long commute to Cairns.
The Connellan Airways Trust is a non-profit organisation ensuring that outback people have opportunities to thrive irrespective of where they live. Each year Connellan Airways Trust provides up to $5000 for one year of financial assistance to support and recognise undergraduate students residing in remote or rural Australian communities.
"My daughter is almost two years old now' and while it is still difficult' I am incredibly grateful that I am able to combine motherhood and study experiences.
"The commute to Cairns for residential schools has always been the biggest challenge for me. I must fly with my partner and two-year-old daughter' making the flights quite expensive.
"My scholarship funds really helped with the financial burden that comes with living in a remote community'" she said.
"It covered the travel and accommodation costs for placements and residential schools' without which I never would have been able to manage."
When she is back home' Brianna spends her time working as an assistant in nursing at Weipa Hospital where she likes to brighten the days of chronically ill patients.
"When I was on my first placement' I became a support system for a palliative patient who lived remote. She would not always have visitors so I would see her on my days off so that she wouldn't be alone'" Brianna said.
"Before she did pass' she said to me 'you have so much to give to this world' and you will make a difference.
"Hearing this patient say that to me when she saw me doubt my parenting skills with my daughter and after she saw me as a first-year nurse asking a million questions meant a lot. It made me think that we don't have to be the best at everything and we will never know everything.
"The most important thing to me to be a fantastic nurse is to be that hand to hold' work hard' and be the best you that you can be."
Now in the second year of her studies' Brianna said is excited to see where her nursing career takes her and encouraged other people living in rural or remote communities to consider higher education.
"I have always wanted to work within the medical field and nursing is one of my steppingstones to achieve this goal.
"I put off going to university for so long as I didn't think I could do it'" she explained.
"There will always be challenges you need to overcome' but at the end of the day' you can do anything set your mind on.
"Once I complete my degree and complete my graduate year' I hope to return to CQU to continue further studies with the goal of becoming a midwife practitioner and help others on their journeys to motherhood."
The CQUniCares Scholarship program changes lives and CQUni is grateful to partner with the Connellan Airways Trust who share the University's passion for making a difference in the lives of our remote students' their families and our communities.