Federation University


Ruby shines on journey from student to staff

Yorta Yorta woman, Ruby Bending-Norman’s dedication and commitment has proved an inspiration for her Indigenous peers and shown that forging the career of your dreams is always possible.

Ruby thought she had no chance of ever studying at university but is now well on the path to further post-secondary education.

“I just want to make a difference. I want to use what I’ve learned and pay it forward and make change for the better. Don’t give up on your dreams because it is possible.”

After taking up a Certificate III in Business traineeship with Federation TAFE and despite some setbacks on her educational journey, Ruby thrived, and determined to progress in her career quickly, worked ahead to finish the two-year traineeship a year early.

Not only did Ruby excel with her own learning, but she also supported the learning of fellow Indigenous classmates, reaching out to them as a peer to make sure they stayed on task.

“During the course I noticed a few of my Indigenous colleagues struggling so I took the initiative to reach out and work one on one with them. I spent more class time with them and called and emailed outside of classes to ensure they were continuing their work and getting it submitted on time. I thought it was important to have someone on their level holding them accountable which they appreciated. It felt good to be supporting and pushing and be someone other students looked to for help.” 

Inspired by this experience, Ruby wanted to continue making a difference to the lives of students and after completing her traineeship, has transitioned from student to staff member, starting a job in Federation University’s Student Equity and Inclusion department.

“I’m in a unique position having studied with Federation and now working here. I have worked across both the TAFE and higher education sectors of the university, and I am Indigenous. I have a lot of experience that could help current students.” 

Ruby plans on continuing her own studies at Federation University, something she never thought possible after opting to study VCAL rather than VCE in her senior secondary years.

“I would love to become a Paramedic, something I’d never consider if I hadn’t studied at TAFE. Because I dropped out of VCE and went to VCAL I thought it wasn’t possible to go anywhere near that field or higher education because I didn’t have an ATAR.”

“In high school you’re taught, ‘get an ATAR and go to university’ or ‘if you don’t have an ATAR, you’re not going to be able to do anything’. But I found out there are a lot of pathways to higher education and TAFE is really undersold as an option. There needs to be more of an awareness in high schools about alternative ways to get into further study.”  

Ruby’s efforts were celebrated at the 2024 Federation TAFE Awards for Excellence with the Federation TAFE Growth Award which recognises Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander First Nation Peoples students who have demonstrated commitment to their personal and academic growth.

Ruby was nominated for the award by Federation TAFE business teacher, Tammy Ballard.

“Ruby’s commitment to her studies deserves to be recognised and celebrated. In the face of numerous challenges, she showed resilience and determination. She hasn’t allowed complications to hinder her academic pursuits but instead used them as motivation to succeed. She deserves all the future has to offer,” said Tammy.”