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Former scholarship recipient passing opportunity forward

Alastair McEwin was born deaf. He was also, it seems, born to lead.

In 1994, he graduated from the University of Adelaide, deeply grateful for the support he’d received through the Sir Charles Bright Scholarship. Now, having risen to the position of Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner, he’s giving others with a disability the same opportunity to ‘fly’.

Alastair and his husband Professor Michael Kidd AM, established the Alastair McEwin Scholarship in perpetuity to support undergraduate or postgraduate coursework students who have a disability. Alastair’s aim is to provide not just financial support, but lifelong motivation.

“I hope it will give them to confidence to just keep flying,” he says. “In 50 years’ time I expect to have seen many students receive this scholarship and go on to do amazing things in the community, whether that be a new invention, providing leadership, or perhaps even becoming Prime Minister of Australia.”

After completing his Bachelor of Laws degree at Adelaide, Alastair was keenly aware of the chance a scholarship had given him. He built an impressive career on that foundation, going on to further study and holding a string of leadership positions in the human rights and not-for-profit sector, culminating in his current appointment.

His personal success has only increased his desire to share the inspiring sense of support he felt as a scholarship recipient, and to contribute to an institution of learning to which he still feels strongly connected.

“My time at the University of Adelaide was incredibly rewarding,” Alastair says. “I go involved in student politics and gained, not just a degree, but life experience.”

“I was fortunate to receive a scholarship and felt very humbled. It made me realise I was given an opportunity, and I didn’t want to waste it. Now I want to give back in whatever way I can.”

Alastair McEwin Scholarship applicants will be assessed according to a number of factors, including academic merit, personal and professional aspirations, their ability to overcome adversity, and most importantly, as Alastair stresses, leadership qualities.

“I really want to support future leaders with disability. So it’s important there’s a demonstrated commitment to giving back to their community.”

As further evidence of this commitment, Alastair and Michael asked guests at their wedding in March 2018 to donate to the scholarship fund in lieu of personal gifts.

“I’ve set up the scholarship because I understand the difficulties facing many with disabilities who wish to undertake university studies, and I think it’s important that everyone, irrespective of their background, has opportunities and support.”

Watch Alastair’s video.

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