19 January 2024

'Exciting things' to come for Batemans Bay woman after winning award for resilience in studies

| Claire Sams
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Gabriela Ware

When Gabriela Ware looked to tertiary study, it meant dealing with shocking news – but her hard work has been recognised. Photo: Supplied.

Gabriela Ware has had a different path than some to university, but she’s dreaming big.

The Batemans Bay resident is about to return to university after recently completing a Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation (aka TPC), which gives graduates an ATAR equivalent they can use to get into tertiary study.

“I was in the public school system and then I moved into homeschooling for a couple of years,” Ms Ware said.

“Then I started studying some different hospitality courses, but I thought that this is not for me long term, so I was looking at different opportunities.”

But entering the program meant dealing with shocking news.

“The same day we had to sit the entrance exams for the TPC, my mum was told she had stage-three breast cancer,” she said.

“That was an ongoing battle for her throughout 2022.

“In the background of my course, she was going through chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and other treatments.”

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Ms Ware went on to complete the TPC, dividing her time between online and in-person study – and supporting her mother through her treatment.

“It added another barrier, but you just keep going,” she said.

“We would go down to the Moruya campus.

“I didn’t have my car licence at that point, so my mum had always helped me get from A to B with things like that.

“At one point, she had to move up to Nowra for a month for radiation [treatment] – because we don’t have any clinics down this way that do that – and I had to use buses and whatnot.”

While her mother has since made a recovery, Ms Ware said her health battle brought challenges.

In late 2023, Ms Ware’s resilience was recognised when she became one of five recipients of an award from NSW Graduate Women – City Branch that recognised challenges faced by women completing the TPC.

The support from the non-profit NSW Graduate Women includes scholarships and awards to support women pursuing their university studies.

“When my TAFE teacher said I should go for this award, I thought, ‘That’s not my hardship,'” she said.

“But it’s still affected the family.”

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Since she completed the TPC, Ms Ware has gone on to study at the University of Wollongong.

She began her studies in 2023 with a plan to study languages.

“In about August, I started doing some training to volunteer on the phones with Lifeline,” she said.

“I was just getting so much fulfilment out of that, and it made me realise my heart’s in community care.

“I’ve just changed degrees and I’m starting social work from this Shoalhaven campus this year.”

Ms Ware said she was also looking at life outside of her studies.

“I’m trying to get into a care support officer role, as well, for part-time work on the side,” she said.

“I think there’s a lot of exciting things coming over the next few years and I’ll keep up my volunteering in places like our local RFS.”

Ms Ware said supporting people from regional Australia was key in helping them achieve their dreams.

“There are a lot of communities around NSW that are quite isolated and even Moruya TAFE campus is a pretty small, little country campus.

“It does mean a lot for these smaller towns – and for us, the people who live there – to be recognised, for sure.”

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