Student Jessie Sharp, who was awarded a journalism scholarship. Photo: Paul Jones

Scholarships help first-year students pursue passion for community news

Scholarships help first-year students pursue passion for community news

Four UOW students receive inaugural Federal Government scholarships

Jessie Sharp’s love for her community runs deep. The first-year student at the University of Wollongong has always enjoyed living in a regional town. She grew up in Nowra, on the NSW South Coast, and said she has learnt so much from her home town.

So, it is only natural that her passion for her community has translated into a passion for regional journalism.

“Local news is important to regional areas. The people in these areas want to see their family and friends in the news, they want to know what’s going on community, and how it will affect their lives,” Jessie said.

Now studying a Bachelor of Journalism at UOW, majoring in Global Screen Media, Jessie is one of four students to receive an inaugural scholarship that aims to highlight the importance of news gathering to regional and remote areas. The scholarships are part of the Federal Government’s Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovations Package.

Jessie and Maria Ortiz, a first-year student from Gunnedah, both received a Regional Journalism Scholarship. Lucy Arundell, from Orange, and Clarissa Field, from Tahmoor, were awarded the Regional Communication and Media Scholarship. 

Each scholarship is worth $8000 per annum, over a period of three years.

Shawn Burns, Journalism Lecturer in the School of Arts, English and the Media, said journalists with knowledge of the area were integral to regional communities.

“Regional and remote communities rely on journalists to tell their stories, and they need to have them told accurately and fairly. It is most important that reporters and journalists live in and understand those communities as locals themselves,” Mr Burns said.

“Connectivity enables journalists to understand the issues and, most importantly, understand the people at the heart of the stories. The scholarships target regional and remote students and, in so doing, encourage them to become journalists and to tell the stories of their home towns and their regions.”

Jessie was drawn to journalism due to her love of telling stories. Her three older brothers, who have always supported their younger sister to excel at school, would ask Jessie to tell them stories about her day.

“My brothers are my biggest supporters. They also encouraged me to read a lot, which I still do now. I love writing and was always good at English and debating,” Jessie said. “I’m also really curious. I love to try new things and find out more about the world around me.

“When I was younger, I became aware of how the news can have different angles depending on who is reporting it, and that really interested me.”

Jessie is the first in her family to attend university. She chose UOW due to its proximity to Nowra – “I wasn’t quite ready to leave” – and her involvement with the University during her high school years through programs such as In2Uni. Attending UOW, Jessie said, is “one of the best decisions of my life”.

The Regional Journalism scholarship was fundamental to helping Jessie start her university journey. Without it, Jessie said she would have struggled to get everything she needed and stay financially afloat.

“I was so thrilled when I found out I was receiving one of the scholarships,” she said.

“I don’t know where I would be without the scholarship. It has helped me to be the best that I could without having to worry about money."