FAMILY SUPPORT: Adam with his mum Deborah on their family farm just outside Stanthorpe.
FAMILY SUPPORT: Adam with his mum Deborah on their family farm just outside Stanthorpe. Anjanette Webb

A dream born from sacrifice and heartache

LIKE many Australians who grew up on a farm during periods of severe drought, Adam Bonner could be forgiven for assuming the worst when he received an emotional call from his father during his morning tea break at Stanthorpe State High School.

In addition to chipping away at their water reserves, the lack of rain had been emotionally and financially draining for his family as they watched their livelihood dry up despite their best efforts.

"I thought that something horrible had happened - it was unusual for dad to call me during school hours and when I answered the phone his voice was shaking,” Adam said.

"But it turns he'd called to tell me I'd received a letter that would change my life, he said 'Adam you have the scholarship, you're going to university'.”

After being nominated by his school principal at Stanthorpe State High, Adam had been selected to participate in the Young Achievers Program at The University of Queensland.

The program provides mentoring camps in year 11 and 12 and financial support to help with the costs of relocation and study once a recipient starts university.

Adam had always been a high performing student and was school captain in his final year, but despite achieving good grades the costs of relocation and study following years of drought that had negatively impacted his families' cattle farm had cast into doubt his dreams of going to university.

As an adolescent, Bonner perhaps didn't fully grasp the reality of his family's financial situation. But he knew enough to understand money was uncomfortably tight.

Adam's father, Tim Bonner, said the drought had created a situation where he and his wife Deborah could no longer foresee being able to support Adam's dreams to study commerce.

"The farm has always been the centre of our universe, but it was just in a really bad way at that time,” Tim said.

"It got to the point that we couldn't afford to send Adam to university, we couldn't fund it, we couldn't rent a house for him, it was just a really tough time.”

"When the scholarship came through it was just such a relief,” he said.

Receiving that scholarship made Adam the first person in his family to attend university.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Business Management in December 2018, Adam now works at one of the 'big four' Australian accounting firms.

He is also the face of a new scholarship initiative launched by The University of Queensland that aims to create more opportunities for students in need, particularly those from rural and regional communities.

"Getting the scholarship was a massive relief and peace of mind for my dad. It was a big relief about not having to stress so much about sending me to uni.”

Bonner, who is now on the advisory board of the UQ Young Achievers Program, wants to use his skills to have a successful career but also to help his family make business decisions.

He has two younger brothers Peter (PJ), 21, who is studying engineering at UQ with help from another (Curavis Fund) scholarship and Thomas, 18, who graduated from high school last year and is working on the family farm.

"When I was in Grade 10, it was hard for me to foresee how much difference that moment (of Dad's phone call) would make in my life.

"Now eight years down the track... I'm here on Eagle St, working in a high rise. Sometimes I just can't believe it.”

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