Young LGBTI+ people still face significant societal and educational challenges – especially if they’re from rural and regional communities.
At AGL we are committed to being Better Together and supporting the community. That’s why we’re sponsoring a three-year scholarship program with The Pinnacle Foundation – a charity organisation that empowers young LGBTI+ Australians to achieve their full potential through educational scholarships and mentoring.
The scholarship program will be open to tertiary students from the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. It will allow them to study at a higher education institution to achieve educational or vocational qualifications in any profession, trade, or the arts. As part of this program, our people will also have the opportunity to mentor Pinnacle students who share the same academic and professional interests, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
In acknowledgement of Wear it Purple Day on August 30 and the official launch of this new partnership, we caught up with Ben Henry, a Pinnacle scholar from the Latrobe Valley, who is currently studying a Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne. Ben shared how the Pinnacle scholarship program has helped him to pursue his academic ambitions, while also connecting him with the queer and professional community in ways he could never have imagined.
Pinnacle scholar Ben Henry (right) at his graduation
Meet Ben Henry
Growing up in a conservative rural area meant that most conversations about LGBTI+ people either involved an element of disgust or explicit homophobia.
In a lot of ways, it always comes back to fear for me – the fear of being outed when I was younger, the fear of being socially rejected, the fear of being seen as weak or defective, and the fear of being limited in what I can do in my life.
Even now living as an openly out LGBTI+ person, it is taxing having to always ‘come out’ to people you meet, fearing how they may treat you differently.
My career ambitions are to have a successful career as a corporate lawyer or executive. Being able to then use that position, power, and privilege to help others is really what drives me.
The Pinnacle scholarship has allowed me to focus on doing well in my studies rather than worrying about the costs. Beyond that, though, this opportunity has also connected me with the queer and professional community in ways I could never have imagined. Growing up I didn’t have queer role models to look up to for hope and guidance, but now I am surrounded by the most amazing people who continue to inspire me to always do more.
Ben (left) with fellow Pinnacle scholar Brock Manson, who spoke at AGL’s partnership launch yesterday
Meeting my mentor has honestly changed my life. He is a seasoned queer activist, successful law partner, and father – and his advice and guidance have been invaluable.
Higher education is as much about discovering the world as it is about discovering yourself. The knowledge and skills you will acquire through your studies will give you the ability to control your life in ways you may not have thought possible.
You may feel disempowered and alone at times, but I guarantee you that you’re not alone and that you can have whatever future you’re willing to work for.