From Lismore to Fiji and beyond - Jordan Ivey's NCP journey

New Colombo Plan
Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - 15:35
  • New Colombo Plan
  • Australia
  • Fiji
  • Philippines

New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholar Jordan Ivey shares his story about what inspired him to apply for an NCP scholarship and his long-term goals.

I remember that moment of wonder like it was yesterday. I was in Vanuatu, body surfing. There were colourful fish swimming all around me. It was magical. A few weeks earlier, my parents had separated. It was brutal. Something I couldn’t comprehend at just 8 years of age. But in that moment in the ocean… everything made sense. I felt safe. I felt alive. And hopeful. On that day, my love for the ocean and marine life underneath it, was born.

I was lucky; I grew up by the beautiful coastline of Northern New South Wales and the ocean was my life. School though was painful. I never felt like I fit in to the confines of those 4 classroom walls. I was always in trouble and had to see the counsellors regularly because I was angry. But, in the ocean, I felt at peace. There was something about being in its wild and untamed presence that calmed me.

I did what I could to survive at school because deep down I had this hunger to do well. I wanted to follow in my Mum’s footsteps and have the career success she did, despite the adversity she’d been through as a child. There was always this constant struggle I couldn’t reconcile though - I needed to love what I was learning. I needed to experience it, touch it, feel it and as a kinaesthetic learner, the standardised auditory style to learning in the school system meant I found it difficult to learn and understand.

Then a moment in school changed everything. I went and saw a career advisor to discuss my future and what I wanted to be in life. That vision felt clear to me. “I love animals, I want to be a zoologist. That’s my dream.“ I said. To which she replied – “ That’s not a realistic career path for you. You’re not smart enough.” I remember how hard that hit me. My childhood dream, crushed into a thousand pieces. I started cutting classes and spending more time in the ocean. I’d lost motivation. Things got so bad that I almost didn’t finish high school. My grades were terrible and my future was not looking bright. 

I hit rock bottom after school. I was working at Woolworths with no university acceptance, no career trajectory and no plan. I was unhappy and knew that if I wanted to have a career, I needed to work hard and make it happen. For me, that started with experiencing life and learning about things I was passionate about.

I was balancing 2 jobs and saving up to travel to the Great Barrier Reef. I wanted to learn about marine life and obtain my Open Water Scuba Diving Licence. I spent time with an eco-tourism guide learning everything I could about the reef and the hidden crisis that was happening underneath our flippers. I remember him sharing how the ocean to many seems like a place of limitless supply, infinitely bountiful, yet in his lifetime, half of all the marine life had disappeared. This was all I needed to hear to reignite the fire that had been lit within me as a child. How could this have gone so wrong I wondered? It was now or never. I needed to do something. I needed to once and for all chase my dreams.

I’d heard about a bridging program Southern Cross University offered called Preparation for Success. It prepared people for university and how to write academically. I was accepted; I worked hard over summer and received 3 distinctions and 1 high distinction. For the first time in my life I’d received good grades and it felt so good. I started to believe that I was not only capable of university, but with hard work, I may actually excel at this.

I was accepted into a Bachelor’s Degree of Marine Science and Management at Southern Cross University. I was excited! I received a scholarship, which enabled me to dedicate to my studies full time. After my first semester, the results came in… 4 distinctions! This made me re-evaluate my goals. I loved the idea of working in a marine related field, but with my grades, I needed to raise the bar. With global problems surrounding marine life, I want to enable real change in the world and research is the best way I can make an impact.

Many doors opened for me since receiving my first scholarship. So, I started exploring ways I could give back to the community and motivate other indigenous school and tertiary students, helping them to pursue their passions too. I put my hand up for every volunteer opportunity I could. I became a Preparation for Success Program co-ordinator, a student ambassador, diversity mentor and tutor for new students. I volunteered with Australian sea bird rescues, rehabilitating turtles and bush regeneration groups.

I then wanted to explore ways I could gain experience conducting practical coral research and found the New Colombo Scholarship. My grades meant I was eligible to apply and within 2 weeks I was accepted! I started designing a research program based on my passions to help protect the decline of coral reefs ecosystems and to educate Indigenous South Sea Islanders. That’s why I chose Fiji as the program destination.  I moved here in January and started learning Fijian so I can transition into my study smoothly.

My goal is to stay in Fiji for 18 months, finish my degree with honours and then complete my PhD in Lismore so I can start implementing my research. Because for me, the future is clear. No matter where you live on our planet, we’re all connected to the sea. We need many things to make a better world, but nothing else will matter if we fail to protect our ocean. It drives our climate, provides our oxygen and shapes our earths chemistry.

Ultimately, these scholarships have impacted my life in such profound ways. It’s given me access to an education I genuinely love and care about. It’s been a butterfly effect with one opportunity leading to another and I’ve met some phenomenal people along the way who have opened many doors for me. I’ve grown and pushed myself beyond my limits and it’s all because scholarship donors and SCU lecturers and tutors have believed in me.There are a lot of bright people in regional towns that don’t have the means to access an education. Imagine if they could. Imagine what impact that would have on the world. Scholarship donors at SCU are changing that. They’re creating real opportunities and it’s creating positive ripple effects within our community, our country and our world’s oceans.