Story by GO supporter and Stories for Simon illustrator Lauren Briggs.

Nikia exudes a warm and effusive personality as she passionately shares her experience as a GO scholar and an honours student in Psychological Science at the University of South Australia.

Born on Kaurna land, Nikia is part of the Ngarrindjeri mob from lower Murray River country. Nikia’s grandfather was part of the Stolen Generations, which

deprived him of a childhood growing up on Country, surrounded by his family and culture. This devastating loss caused an intergenerational trauma that is still being felt two generations later. It meant that Nikia’s mum, Amanda grew up with little understanding of language and culture. However, once Nikia was born, Amanda made huge strides to reconnect her family with heritage and culture. Nikia remembers feeling a strong sense of identity when growing up. ‘When I was young’, she shares, ‘people would say to me you can’t be Aboriginal because you are white. That used to really affect me because here I am embracing my culture and here they are telling me I’m not’, says Nikia. ‘Mum gave me a great analogy that no matter how much milk you put in coffee, it’s still coffee.’ That really resonated with Nikia and has helped her remain strong in her roots.

After completing her HSC at Adelaide High School, Nikia began her Bachelor degree in Psychological Science and it was during her second year of study that she first heard about the opportunity to gain a GO Foundation scholarship. ‘I put myself out there, applied and got it,’ says Nikia. ‘Its more than just a scholarship, it’s not a one off payment like other scholarships might be. They keep in contact with you, they check up on you and they are actually invested in your education.’ GO were so invested in Nikia’s education that they decided to continue to support her whilst completing her honours year in Psychology. As Nikia was financially independent, she was able to cut down on her other work commitments due to GO’s renewal of support, alleviating much of the financial stress she was experiencing and allowing her to focus on her studies.

Left: Nikia with her mum Amanda and her little sister Kailyn at her mum’s graduation. Right: Nikia with her father Paul, both eager Jiu Jitsu athletes.
Left: Nikia with her mum Amanda and her little sister Kailyn at her mum’s graduation. Right: Nikia with her father Paul, both eager Jiu Jitsu athletes.

Simultaneous to studying, Nikia also worked with Aboriginal high school students at Adelaide High, mentoring and guiding them through their life and study choices. Ironically, there are GO Scholars at Adelaide High and Nikia is now mentoring GO Scholars (who speak highly of her) at the school she once attended herself!

Nikia identified early on that maintaining relationships with her students was key to their success. ‘When I was working with students, I could see that the main priority was getting them where they wanted to be and supporting them in a way that aligns with what their individual needs were. That is not always academics,’ she explains. Nikia feels a great sense of satisfaction seeing her students flourish and evolve.

Passionate to prioritise and amplify the voice of Indigenous youth, Nikia is exceptionally proud to have been one of five Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people from around Australia to create the Take a Step Campaign. It took 18 months of hard work and enthusiasm to create the campaign, tailoring its resources for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander youth. Nikia collaborated with elders and different allied health services to ensure the campaign was culturally safe. ‘Our main words of the campaign were nothing about us without us’.

It is hard to imagine Nikia slowing down anytime soon. When not working or studying, Nikia loves Brazilian jiu jitsu, spending time with her family and her dog Peanut. Currently, Nikia works with Headspace as a mental health clinical intern. She is extremely proud to be part of an Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander reference group called The Wominjeka, the national Aboriginal reference group for Headspace. Wominjeka is the traditional word of the Wurundjeri people for ‘come with purpose’, a perfect way to describe Nikia Bailey.