Ashley Hawkins remembers graduating with Distinction from CQUniversity's Bachelor of Medical Sonography and Graduate Diploma of Medical Sonography as one of the proudest moments of his life.
The Kamilaroi man is now encouraging other Indigenous people to follow his footsteps into the industry.
Mr Hawkins said his own career path was not always clear with the Sunshine Coast resident dedicating many years working in the military before being attracted to the Sonography program at CQUniversity's Brisbane campus.
"I originally chose CQU because of the bridging programs which allowed me to gain the necessary skills to succeed at university.
"I spent over 10 years as an Avionics Maintenance Engineer' so maths' physics' and electrical knowledge were all second nature to me' but I didn't know how to reference or even write a basic essay.
"CQUniversity's enabling course' Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) program' has lecturers and tutors that support you and truly want to see you succeed."
As a mature aged student with a family' including a newborn' and having never finished high school' Mr Hawkins admitted his study journey was a challenge but worth it to achieve a rewarding career.
"These challenges actually motivated me further. I needed a better career for my family and I knew that I could be more than I currently was. I really wanted to pursue a future in the healthcare industry which could provide these opportunities'" he said.
"Sonography is a great career that allows you to interact with patients' investigate their symptoms and seek answers using ultrasound.
"It is so much more than just taking pictures; you have autonomy when scanning and assist in making decisions on a possible diagnosis and treatment plans for patients."
Being a father of three' Mr Hawkins' time was precious' which he said helped him to achieve a better work-life balance and create positive study habits.
"I worked out what assessments were the highest rating and put the most effort in those. I have a good short-term memory' so making funny acronyms along with a few nights of cramming before exams helped.
"I also sped up the recordings to 1.5 speed and listened for key points.
"There were sacrifices I had to make at times to keep my grades up' like a social life and exercise. I still went out and had trips away' but I knew when I needed to put that aside' keep my eyes on the prize' and invest that energy into my studies."
He also credited the support of CQUniversity in helping him to achieve and maintain high grades.
"I was lucky enough to have been successful in applying for a scholarship which helped tremendously'" Mr Hawkins said.
"I also made use of the tutoring help for Indigenous students near the end of my degree during my research topics. Indigenous students can access tutoring so you are never alone when it comes to support.
"I could have put less effort in and scraped by' but I really wanted to know as much as I could to set a strong foundation for when I went into the workforce after graduating."
With 2021 almost at an end' Mr Hawkins encouraged other young Indigenous people to consider their futures and higher education options.
"When I first started' I had no idea' fast forward a few years (they go by fast)' and there I was getting my degree'" he said.
"The best investment you can ever make is in yourself' whether that be education' your career' or your future. You spend the most time with yourself' so why not put some time and energy into your own happiness."