Neerim Callope

Neerim Callope walks around the grounds of James Cook University (JCU) in Cairns radiating with great confidence. His academic achievement reflects his confidence and he certainly knows what he wants.

Neerim's Aboriginality includes two different groups from two states in Australia. On his mother's side he is a Kirraewhurrong man, from south-western Victoria and on his father's side he is a Gkuthaarn man from Normanton, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Although born in Melbourne Neerim was raised in the bush, on his father's traditional country. Leaving his home of Normanton to attend secondary school on the east coast of Queensland was hard for him.

"Leaving home and my country was a difficult time and in my first few weeks away I remember crying myself to sleep every night" Neerim explains.

But for him it has all paid off.

Neerim believes that the education he received combined with the stories and history from his parents, have given him a well-rounded and critical understanding of the country he lives in.

"With this education, and strength in my culture and who I am, I began making some significant opportunities for myself" says Neerim.

"I graduated high school in 2010 with an Overall Position grade of 5, which opened a lot of doors for tertiary-study options".

"I started a Bachelor of Law at James Cook University in 2011, but changed to a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) majoring in English in June 2012".

Neerim changed courses because he saw too many of 'his mob' falling by the wayside in the mainstream education system.

During his academic pursuits Neerim also achieved many highlights which included his first public appearance at the JCU Reconciliation Night where he gave the key address as the Public Relations Officer, a position he was given three weeks into his University career.

"From there the opportunities began to appear faster than I could take them" he says.

"To date I have been a university ambassador for four years, a student mentor for two years, presented at State and National conferences speaking about educational reform, and in May 2014 I went to Hawaii to speak at the World's Indigenous People's Conference on Education".

But Neerim points out that all the achievements were not easy.

"Describing my accomplishments like that does no justice to the resilience and strength I built during my journey thus far" continues Neerim.

"I have faced obstacle after obstacle - from major difficulties like being challenged by my own mob about particular views I had, to minor ones like financial struggles".

Neerim states that he hasn't let the problems overcome him and that in fact the problems have strengthened and him.

"I need to be strong for the dreams and aspirations I want to achieve" he says.

"My mid-term goals are to receive a first class Honours degree, followed by a doctorate from either Cambridge or Oxford University".

"My long term goal is to eventually open my own school for Aboriginal students, an institution based on excellence in academics and culture".

For Neerim his role models have included his father and people like Charlie Perkins, Eddie Mabo and Che Guevara.

"Recently, my biggest role model has been myself" says Neerim.

"Rather than try to live like someone else or aspire to the same things as someone else, I constantly try to better myself as a person and out-work and accomplish more than I did yesterday".

"I am obsessed with improving myself: my mind, spirit and body".