“Reconciliation is about all of us as Australians being able to be part of something,” says Tiwi man Patrick Heenan (OM 2009), who returned to Melbourne in June to speak at each of our campuses during the School’s 25th Reconciliation Week. “I want us all to be part of something, and to be able to share our cultures with each other.”
A community that spans the continent
As one of the first students to come to our School on a First Nations Scholarship, Patrick says returning to Melbourne Grammar School brought back memories of the friendships he made while boarding here, particularly as his transition to the School came at a difficult time.
“I lost my dad and my grandmother within two or three months of each other, just before I came here,” says Patrick, who grew up on Melville Island, located around 60km north of Darwin in the Timor Sea. “It was quite hard for me at the start but, being here, I saw people who were studying hard and wanted to achieve something. That rubbed off on me.”
“Melbourne Grammar set me on a pathway where I can walk in both worlds,” Patrick adds. “I can go back home to my island and my people and fit in there, and I can come down here and meet with students and teachers, catch up for a coffee — as you do in Melbourne — and feel comfortable as well. Being able to walk in both worlds means anything can happen.”
Paving the way for future generations
Following the initial culture shock of moving to Melbourne, Patrick became heavily involved in School life. He joined the School choir, played against Scotch College at the MCG to win the Sesquicentenary 2008 Cordner Eggleston Cup, and became the first student to perform a traditional First Nations dance at the School.
“My dad had said to me, ‘You need an education in life—you need a backup plan in case something doesn’t work out,’” Patrick explains. “I wanted the best education I could get. Coming to Melbourne Grammar, I was around people who wanted to succeed, and that’s a cycle that repeats.”
Now working as a liaison officer for the Member for Arafura (which includes Melville Island), Patrick says he feels proud to be able to advocate for his communities, and is considering a role in local politics himself.
Speaking to our students, he reflected on what has changed in our national conversation since his time as a boarder. “Being back here, I can see things have progressed in the way they should,” he says. “I’m hoping one day that everyone can be part of reconciliation, no matter what background they’re from.”
About our First Nations Scholarships
Our First Nations Scholarships are aimed at ensuring talented First Nations students are able to benefit from a Melbourne Grammar education. Often, as it did with Patrick, the experience at our School helps these students reframe what they think is possible.
In addition, all students benefit greatly from having more First Nations students with us, supporting the creation of genuine cross-cultural understanding across our student body.
If you are interested in supporting the First Nations Scholarship program, please contact:
Head of Development
+61 3 9865 7683