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Torres hopes to be a role model for Indigenous youth


Zoe Satherley
4 May 2006
Torres Webb shed tears of joy and sadness when he graduated from Southern Cross University recently.

He was thrilled that his three years of study doing a Bachelor of Science majoring in Fisheries and Aquaculture were finally over.

But his heart ached because neither his father, Trevor, who died of cancer when Torres was just 15, nor his mother, Sarah, a health worker who lives on Erub (Darnley Island) in the Torres Straits, could be there to see him graduate.

"I sense dad's energy and I know he is here, but I still feel the great loss of his physical presence in my life," Torres said.

"But I am so blessed that my brother, John Vanhooren, came down from Cairns and my nephew, Michael Vanhooren, came down from Brisbane. It meant so much to me to have them there."

Torres, who has been living in Lismore while studying at university, went to school and grew up in Mossman in far North Queensland.

"I copped a lot of discrimination when I was at school – especially from some of the staff members who couldn't understand why I insisted on choosing academic subjects in preference to vocational ones," he said.

"It was tough and as soon as I finished high school I thought I'd had enough of education and just wanted to do anything other than continue studying.

"I really doubted I was good enough to study at university.

"But mum really encouraged me to go for a Federal Government Indigenous Cadetship with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in conjunction with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

"I didn't think I had a hope in the world of getting it – but I did.

"They covered all my HECS fees and helped with living expenses. In return I worked for them in Canberra and in their Thursday Island regional office during every holiday break and I have to stay with them for a year after I graduate.

"It is great walking straight into a well paid and well respected job.

"I'm working in the area of compliance and fisheries management.

"I want to take what I have learned from Southern Cross University and from my job and go back and use it to benefit my people and the environment.

"It is so important we have a voice to speak out about crucial issues like land rights, sea rights and our economic, legal and cultural autonomy.

"I hope I can make a difference and be something of a role model to some of our younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander youth.

"I will be encouraging prospective students to come to Southern Cross University to study at the Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples because it is so supportive in every way and the education they provide is world class and opens many doors of opportunity."