“I wasn’t an A student but I tried, and when I start teaching I want to be someone they can look up to and for them to come to me with any problems.”
When he finished high school Harrison, who is from the Kamilaroi Nation in NSW, wasn’t quite sure what direction his life would take, but then he began working as an Aboriginal Education Assistant at local schools in the Inverell area, as well as being a teacher’s aide at Inverell High School.
“This really sparked my interest in teaching,’’ he said.
“I enjoyed working with the boys and helping them with sport and reading and other school activities.”
A young man of many talents, Harrison also worked as a scaffolder and bartender as well as his education assistant role.
But it was when he started a Clontarf Foundation chapter at Inverell High School that Harrison found he was able to make a real difference to the lives of Aboriginal boys. The Clontarf Foundation is a non-for-profit organisation that encourages Indigenous boys to remain at high school by developing their self-esteem and life skills.
“I worked with the school to help the boys in the program and ran football coaching clinics two days a week, so I’d pick up the boys from home in the morning, train them and then we’d have a big breakfast to get them ready for school. They really enjoyed it and their attendance at school improved,’’ he said.
Enthusiasm swelled and numbers rose from 15 boys attending the program in May 2012 to 40 at the start of 2013.
Harrison soon realised that he wanted to do more, to be able to teach the children he was helping every day.
“The push for me came when I realised I had all this experience with non-Indigenous as well as Indigenous students but no qualifications.
“The University of New England was close to where I live, but I wanted to spread my wings and get of my comfort zone. Griffith has a great reputation for teaching and I thought the Gold Coast would be a nice place to live.
“I chose primary education as there’s a demand for male teachers and also because I enjoy teaching from kindy right through to middle school.”
As well as the Indigenous Access Scholarship Harrison is also the recipient of a Commonwealth Equity Scholarship.
“The scholarships have given me the freedom to focus fully on my studies. Without them, things would be a lot harder.”
He credits the GUMURRII Student Support Unit at the Gold Coast campus for providing the foundation to his studies.
“They helped me out in so many ways. I was able to prepare myself and make some good friends.”
And while he found the transition to university a little daunting, he achieved a GPA of 5 in his first semester of study.
“That’s the just the beginning. I’m a lot more confident and switched on now,’’ he said.