How a good education helped Native American Nathan Bassani have it all

Nathan Bassani worked hard in school and landed a job with a six-figure salary. Now the young indigenous man is inspiring others to try too.

Nearly half the residents of the Aboriginal community Nathan Bassani grew up in are unemployed.

And those lucky enough to have a paying job typically earn a little over $220 on average per week.

But life has turned out dramatically different than it should have been for Mr. Bassani.

At 27, he has a six-figure salary and lives in a four-bedroom property he bought at 22.

He is also happily married to his teenage girlfriend Zandalee, 28, with whom he shares a daughter, Kleo, 3.

Mr. Bassani’s life trajectory changed when he parachuted on a scholarship to one of Brisbane’s top private schools.

Until then he had been attending the local state school at his home in Yarrabah, 55km from Cairns in far north Queensland, which only caters for boys up to year 10.

For those who want to continue to year 12, they must travel 50 minutes one way.

The long commute to work can cause motivation to wane, Bassani said.

When she won a scholarship through the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF), she “seized the opportunity with both hands.”

“I’ve done a lot of things I never thought I’d do, like moving house,” he said.

“Knowledge is power. It completely changed my life.”

He said that as a boarder at Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane, everyone was there to learn, there were no distractions and he received a lot of support from teachers who believed in him.

After school, he took an apprenticeship as a diesel fitter and worked in the mines, where he was able to save up a deposit for his house.

Not every child in Yarrabah, which has a population of less than 3,000, is able or would like to get a scholarship to go to boarding school, but seeing others succeed can only be a good thing, according to AIEF Executive Director Andrew Penfold.

“One of the things that people question is the value of education,” Penfold said.

“Seeing a real life example like Nathan, who has done something incredible in his life, creates a ripple effect of high expectations, whether it’s for his siblings or others in the community.”

AIEF supports around 350 students a year through scholarships, with funding coming from private companies and matched by the government.

The son of Leslie, a local council worker, and Petrina, a community mentor, Mr. Bassani is the second of five children, all of whom received scholarships.

Bassani, who was also a former semi-pro league player, is now a mechanical engineer at a plant called Queensland Magnesia in Rockhampton, 12 hours south of Yarrabah.

He makes the trip home twice a year and said that while Yarrabah was a fantastic place for a child to grow up, there was a lack of educational and job opportunities.

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Originally published as How a good education helped indigenous man Nathan Bassani have it all

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