JCU student embraces new beginnings with Indigenous scholarship

  • 27 May 2024
  • News Article

In the heart of Townsville, at the James Cook University Student Halls of Residence (Burralga Yumba), a new chapter unfolds for Jaydah Savage, an aspiring occupational therapist from Cairns. Jaydah’s journey is one of courage, community, and the pursuit of a dream, supported by a scholarship that’s part of JCU’s Indigenous Engagement Strategy.

JCU Occupational Therapy student Jaydah Savage talking to cameras in front of the JCU Halls of Residence project

In the heart of Townsville, at the James Cook University (JCU) Student Halls of Residence (Burralga Yumba), a new chapter unfolds for Jaydah Savage, an aspiring occupational therapist from Cairns. Jaydah’s journey is one of courage, community, and the pursuit of a dream, supported by a scholarship that’s part of JCU’s Indigenous Engagement Strategy.

Originally from the lush tropics of Far North Queensland, Jaydah carries her heritage with pride. Her roots extend from Mossman to the Torres Strait, with lineage to Boigu Island. Cairns, a city cradled by rainforest and reef, is where her heart calls home.

Transitioning from the familiar streets of Cairns to the bustling campus life in Townsville, Jaydah’s move was a leap into the unknown.

“I didn’t know anyone here,” she recalls.

But fortune favoured her boldness, granting her a place in the vibrant college community.

“It was like being constantly at a social event,” she says, reflecting on the whirlwind of friendships and experiences that welcomed her.

The strategic location of her accommodation—a mere five-minute stroll from her classes and a stone’s throw from the gym—has been a boon for her academic life. Whilst the Indigenous Education and Research Centre (IERC), nestled right next door, stands as a testament to JCU’s commitment to supporting Indigenous students.

For Jaydah, the Indigenous Student On-Campus Accommodation Scholarship was more than financial aid; it was a lifeline that eased the worries of both her and her mother. The news of the award brought tears of joy and relief, dispelling the fears of financial hardship. 

Mum was a bit worried that I was going to struggle a bit down here, but once I received the email of the scholarship, she was really happy, (she) cried a little bit because she was that worried about me moving down here.

"It allowed me to concentrate more on my studies rather than working,”

Jaydah Savage

Jaydah Savage

The scholarship’s impact is profound, enabling her to maintain a casual job without the pressure of excessive hours, keeping her focus firmly on her education.

Occupational therapy is not just a field of study for Jaydah; it’s a calling. With a background in sport and recreation youth work, she witnessed the gap between health and athletics—a gap she’s determined to bridge. Jaydah is focused on leveraging her expertise in the sports industry to improve the well-being and performance of athletes both on and off the field.

As Jaydah settles into her new home, still scented with fresh paint, she’s reminded of the camaraderie of a football camp. It’s a fitting analogy for her college experience—a team effort, a shared goal, and a supportive environment that fosters growth and success.

“They really made me feel welcome here Auntie Vonne and Colette.”, she said.

Jaydah’s story is one of many that JCU’s Indigenous Engagement Strategy aims to replicate. By providing essential support through scholarships, the university not only invests in the individual futures of Indigenous students but also enriches the cultural diversity of its academic community.

For Jaydah Savage, the scholarship serves as a pivotal milestone, propelling her toward her aspirations of becoming a skilled occupational therapist. It’s a journey that begins with the support of her university, giving her the best chance to create a future where she can give back and inspire others to follow their dreams.

Indigenous Engagement Strategy


In 2022, 13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students benefited from the new Indigenous Student On-Campus Accommodation Scholarship. Initially supported by a $40,000 donation from JCU, the scholarship’s total allocation increased to $120,000 through support from the McCall MacBain Foundation and UniLodge.


Scholarships awarded


in financial assistance

4 - 6

rooms per year

This financial aid has allowed students to focus on their studies, reducing the need for additional work hours to cover living expenses.

Through his extensive research in the field of Indigenous education, Professor Martin Nakata, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Indigenous Educational Strategy at James Cook University (JCU), identified three primary obstacles hindering Indigenous students' academic journey: financial constraints, accommodation shortages, and a lack of tailored support services. 

Professor Martin Nakata

The finance issue has a major implication for their progression and completion rates," he explains. "Indigenous kids don't have the finance to afford university and often don't have the finance for accommodation."

"By far we didn't even imagine that much would flow through to scholarships for students four to six beds over 25 years, about $1,000,000."

Professor Martin Nakata

NAIF's dedicated team works closely with proponents and Indigenous groups to ensure that the Indigenous opportunities and outcomes outlined in the Indigenous Engagement Strategy (IES) process are sustainable and achievable. This collaborative approach ensures that Indigenous communities can actively participate in and benefit from the projects supported by NAIF.

NAIF's projects also create employment and training opportunities for Indigenous individuals and community members. These initiatives focus on skills development, vocational training, and job creation, contributing to increased Indigenous workforce participation and economic empowerment.

Halls of Residence Customer Service Coordinator and proud Indigenous woman, Yvonne Ingram, has forged strong connections with students proving instrumental in promoting accommodation opportunities at Burralga Yumba for prospective students. Yvonne Ingram’s tireless work has facilitated engagement between the two entities, creating a bridge that benefits both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Her role extends beyond administrative tasks and her organisation of cultural activities on-site enriches the experience for students. Through these activities, JCU provides non-Indigenous students with a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Whether they hail from interstate or overseas, students benefit from this exposure, fostering a more inclusive and culturally aware community.

The Indigenous Student On-Campus Accommodation Scholarships provide housing support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students who live on campus at JCU Townsville, Bebegu Yumba Campus or JCU Cairns, Nguma-bada Campus. This suite of scholarships are proudly supported by UniLodge, the McCall MacBain Foundation and JCU. This scholarship is subject to the provisions of the James Cook University Coursework Scholarships, Bursaries and Grants Policy.

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