Writing and economics a passion for Katrina Dawson scholar

Sydney, 23 May 2016

When Catherine Priestley first heard about the joint scholarship on offer from The Katrina Dawson Foundation and Macquarie Group, she was at a crossroads in her university studies.

"I was struggling with a particular subject at the time so I was very focused on getting through it and working out what I wanted to do with my education in the long-term," the inaugural Katrina Dawson Foundation Macquarie Group Scholar says.

"The stars aligned though and I was surprisingly successful in being awarded the scholarship." 

Priestley grew up in Gilgandra, a small town in New South Wales, Australia, and went to her local high school.

"I then had a gap year to work locally with my dad who is an engineering surveyor. After a trip to Europe I decided to pursue a university degree in Sydney and as the first person to go to university in my family it was a big deal," says Priestley.

If you understand economics then so much of the world opens up to you.

She started her combined five-year BA Arts and Engineering degree at the University of Sydney in 2015 and has a particular passion for writing – something she talks about with infectious enthusiasm.

"If you understand economics then so much of the world opens up to you," she says. "I’m interested in both economics and engineering but I also love writing, news, culture and literature. They are all huge passions for me and I want to see where they take me."

Scholarships offered by The Katrina Dawson Foundation provide financial and mentoring support to talented young women studying at university to help them overcome barriers that might otherwise prevent them from realising their potential.

It was set up in honour of Katrina Dawson who was killed in December 2014 at the Lindt Cafe siege in Martin Place, Sydney.

"As a family, we have a personal interest in Catherine’s, and all of the scholarship recipients’, success," says Nikki Dawson, CEO of The Katrina Dawson Foundation.

"We want to maximise their potential, open doors for them and have them feel supported by us. Ultimately we want to build a community of amazing young women who aspire to make a difference in the world."

She says Priestley was an obvious choice for the scholarship.

"Catherine embodies everything we look for in our scholarship recipients: academic excellence, community engagement and leadership ability. She has a distinction average, is involved in many community activities and has already shown leadership in areas such as engagement of rural youth.

"Catherine's face lights up when she talks about her passions. She has an incredibly curious mind and we’re excited to see how she progresses."

Priestley’s scholarship was jointly funded by Macquarie and as the inaugural recipient she will also receive mentoring support from Macquarie staff and an internship with the company.

And Priestley plans to make the most of the opportunity: "When you read through Katrina’s achievements she really did achieve a lot personally and professionally. It is a huge honour to be doing something in her name and my eyes are wide open. I’m ready to learn."

Supporting The Katrina Dawson Foundation

In mid-2015, hundreds of Macquarie staff participated in a Paper Planes Challenge to support The Katrina Dawson Foundation and their scholarships for aspiring young women.

With members of Katrina Dawson’s family in attendance, and featuring Australian paper plane champions Dylan Parker and James Norton, with MC Andrew O’Keefe, staff cheered the plane throwing competition at Macquarie’s headquarters in Martin Place, raising more than $A120,000 with Macquarie Group Foundation matching.

Image caption: (Left to right) Macquarie Group Foundation’s Program Manager, Lauren O’Shaughnessy, scholarship recipient, Catherine Priestley and Graduate Recruitment Lead, Jo Moore at The Women's College, University of Sydney. Photo by Haline Ly.