A cancelled flight, a delay and a very determined graduate

7 December 2023
Graduation day memories: Rebecca Hyland
With the final 2023 graduations taking place in the Great Hall over the next few weeks, we asked Rebecca Hyland, winner of the 2023 Sister Alison Bush Medal for Contribution to Indigenous Community what she remembers about her graduation day.

"How could I ever forget my graduation day at the University of Sydney? I actually studied two degrees, and I remember I could not make it to the ceremony at my other university as I was heavily pregnant with my jarjum (child in Yugambeh language). That made me even more determined to attend my graduation at the University of Sydney. It was a big deal for me to be graduating from university.

I remember that day, I had been working on Yugambeh Country (Gold Coast) and my flight was cancelled the night before. In desperation, I drove to Brisbane to catch the morning flight, but my luck took another turn when that flight was delayed. I boarded with very little hope, only to be told there were even more major delays in Sydney.

I cried while I messaged my husband, the jarjums, my parents, and a group of my student cohort to say I won't be attending the graduation ceremony. I wished them the best.

Eventually, I arrived in Sydney moments before the ceremony started. I jumped in the first taxi, told him my story and he sped off, dropping me right out the front of the Great Hall. I ran as fast as I could, and just made it to be gowned. I snapped a quick selfie and sent it to the mob with big text saying 'I made it!'

I sat in my seat and waited for my chance to walk across the stage and tip my cap. All the while, I could not believe I actually made it. I was emotional and so very proud to watch on as my deadly cohort graduated, and for myself to be part of the day alongside them.  I did it for me, my family, my jarjums and my communities.

After that whirlwind of a graduation day, I was inspired to further my learning. I’m now enrolled in a Masters by Research, and so excited to see where this journey will take me. I would like to think I am a lifelong learner and I know I will always work with and be guided by our people, communities and vast language groups. To this day I thank my mum for her love of learning, reading, and working in a library for more than 30 years and for the way my parents always encouraged me along my journey to better educational opportunities."

About Rebecca Hyland

Rebecca Hyland is a proud Kamilaroi-Gomeroi Yinarr (woman), a mother of two jarjums (children), a wife and connected to a big mob. Her career has taken her across Australia, and over the past 19 years First Nations engagement has always been a key focus. Rebecca is most passionate about empowering though education, health outcomes for mob, and First Nations leadership.

Rebecca has been fortunate to work with and learn from many cultures and many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and language groups. She dedicated the past 19 years to working in both government, non-government, and the corporate sector. She has experience in management and senior management in large and diverse portfolios,

She is now the Co-Chair of the Global Alliance of Chronic Disease Indigenous Populations Working Group, and the Senior Projects Manager for a National Research Project known as iSISTAQUIT. She loves her roles and has a wonderful team and partners who are extremely passionate and committed to working together towards better health outcomes.

In 2023, Rebecca was awarded the Sister Alison Bush Medal for Contributions to Indigenous Community at the University of Sydney Alumni Awards, and the First Peoples Award by the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs.