Son of ACU’s first Indigenous graduates makes history

A heartwarming story of generational success marked the graduation of Brisbane’s Jayme Dreise when he crossed the stage to collect his Bachelor of Nursing degree.

Jayme is the son of ACU’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates, Phillip and Darlene Dreise.

His parents sat, proudly watching in the front, as they tightly held a cute picture of their son at their own historic graduation more than 30 years ago.

Loud cheers and applause marked the historic moment for Jayme and his family, including his young children Billie, 2, and Beau, 6 months, who were also watching.

“It is extra special to graduate from ACU where Mum was the first Torres Strait Islander woman and Dad the first Indigenous man to graduate and dedicate so many years of his working life in the academic space,” Jayme said.

Since graduating from ACU, Phillip and Darlene have both worked in their chosen fields to Close the Gap while raising four children.

Phillip spent many years working at ACU where he was instrumental in setting up the university’s Indigenous Higher Education Unit, Weemala, to offer academic, personal and cultural support. 

Jayme transitioned from military service to university through ACU’s veterans’ program and chose the demanding field of nursing, embodying the ethos of service and adaptability instilled in him during his time in the defence forces.

He now works as an adolescent mental health nurse at the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

Jayme hopes his journey to academic success provides hope and inspiration for those struggling to make a career choice.

“I was never an academic person, I just got through high school but if you truly want something and are motivated you can get it,” he said.

“It took me 10 years to decide to go to uni because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I knew that I wanted something with my name on it so that what led me to ACU.

“I feel that I am in a unique and privileged position being an Indigenous person to do this. I hope I can be a role model and inspiration for other Indigenous kids who see where I am now.”

Jayme said that while his parents encouraged him to strive for something greater, they never pushed him into formal education.

“They never pushed that on me. Mum and Dad have been fantastic role models and they really showed what you can be. They have dedicated their working lives to Indigenous people which is really special.”

Read Phillip and Darlene’s story here.

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