Removing barriers to education
Quality education for everyone—no matter what their background—has been a key motivator for Natasha Stott Despoja for as long as she can remember.
It's a subject which fired her initial foray into politics at high school when she co-founded the first State Council of Students, and as a young Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Adelaide when higher education charges and HECS fees were being introduced.
Through her campaigning she became President of the University's Students' Association—and has been fighting for just causes ever since.
At 26 she became the youngest woman ever to enter the Australian Parliament and was the longest serving Democrat Senator in the party's history before leaving in 2008 after almost 13 years.
"University was a very fertile political environment for me and in many respects a springboard into my political career," says Ms Stott Despoja. "As a child, my mother imbued in me that there should be no financial disincentives to education and that's always been one of my passions."
As a politician, Ms Stott Despoja made a strong contribution in many policy areas and has continued her active public life as a board member of various non-profit organisations and through her media work. Most recently she was appointed national Chair of the Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and Their Children.
She has also renewed her connection with the University of Adelaide since 2008, as an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow and teaching politics at the Winter School with former Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer.
And her commitment to education for everyone remains as strong as ever. For the past five years she has funded an undergraduate scholarship to support a financially disadvantaged female student of academic merit to study humanities full-time.
She was appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2011.
To hear Natasha Stott Despoja talk about the scholarship she funds and how it is benefiting one of the recipients, go to: www.alumni.adelaide.edu.au/natashavideo
story by Ian Williams
Natasha Stott Despoja
Photo by David Marks