From 1 July, The Pinnacle Foundation invites scholarship applications from LGBTIQ+ students between the ages of 17 and 26 who plan to study full-time education at a public institution of higher education in Australia. The Foundation awards scholarships with the aim of helping LGBTIQ+ youth to thrive and so build our communities.
QNews recently spoke with Wayne Porritt — Chair, Queensland Committee, Andrew Staite — Pinnacle CEO, and Tamma Sorbello — Chair, Queensland Profile Sub-Committee to find out more.
The Pinnacle Foundation lights the spark.
It provides educational and vocational support to LGBTIQ+ youth whose gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual characteristics prevented or hindered them achieving either their career aspirations or personal development.
Andrew Staite says there is a common misconception that since Australia achieved marriage equality, that life for LGBTIQ+ youth magically improved.
“It may have for some, but for many, that’s just not the case.
“National LGBTI Health Alliance research indicates that LGBTIQ+ youth are still between five and eleven times more likely to attempt self-harm or experience psychological distress directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination, bullying or abuse.
“Research conducted by the Mitchell Institute in 2017 shows that low self-esteem, family disruption and severe peer victimisation are critical factors that make it difficult for young people to complete their education. That comes not only at great personal cost but also, at great cost to our wider society.”
And it is here where The Pinnacle Foundation fits.
Established in 2009, the Foundation provides educational scholarships as well as mentoring and opportunities for young LGBTIQ+ Australians. It assists them to realise their full potential and overcome challenges arising from their identity.
Firstly, The Pinnacle Foundation awards multi-year scholarships for fulltime study at Australian public universities. The scholarships cover up to four years for undergraduate studies and two years for postgraduate studies. The foundation also awards scholarships to complete fulltime TAFE courses. The aim is to assist scholars to achieve either educational or vocational qualifications in any profession, trade or the arts.
The Pinnacle Foundation does not receive government support. It relies on generous individual donors and corporate partners. Additionally, over 115 active volunteers in every state and the ACT raise the funds necessary to fulfil Pinnacle’s purpose.
Tamma said, “Currently, Pinnacle is promoting our end-of-financial-year fundraising campaign.
“As Pinnacle is endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Taxation Office, donations of $2 or more are tax-deductible. Many people within the LGBTIQ+ community and allies make fortnightly or monthly recurring donations. Donations (and every donation, no matter how small, counts) can be made through the Foundation’s website.
“Community members also support the foundation by volunteering as mentors. However, Pinnacle’s need of mentors depends on the number of scholarships it can afford. Therefore, the foundation encourages donations first and foremost. More information and mentor registration is available online.
“Subject to vacancy/fit/suitability, opportunities also sometimes arise to join our state or ACT committees. State and ACT committees are primarily mandated with fundraising, awareness-raising and local scholar/alumni engagement.”
The Pinnacle Foundation Patrons, Ambassadors, Board and Committee members
The list of The Pinnacle Foundation’s patrons, ambassadors, board, and committee members is a veritable Who’s Who of distinguished and eminent LGBTIQ+ Australians and allies. Wayne Porritt said many of those people grew up in a society that failed to offer support to young LGBTIQ+ people.
“Many of the LGBTIQ+ youth that Pinnacle supports experience rejection from their families and communities because of who they are and how they identify. Many do not enjoy the benefit of a supportive home life. Some experience homelessness, abuse and violence.
“We know that gaining an education can significantly change your life for the better. Education increases our options — it enriches us and empowers us — it helps us to expand our life choices.
“Without Pinnacle, many of our scholars would miss out on getting an education.”
Tamma Sorbello said the Foundation carefully matches every scholar with a mentor who typically shares the same academic and professional interests, gender identity and sexual orientation.
“We match scholars with mentors who understand their individual journey.
“Scholars and their mentors usually meet fortnightly or monthly. At the moment, this is happening by Zoom, but usually, it’s face to face.
“The common refrain we hear from scholars is that they first apply for a scholarship because of a dire need of financial support. Over time, though, most scholars report that while the funds are vital, the value of their mentor in providing support, counsel and guidance proves equally valuable. Scholars often tell us that the wider Pinnacle family is the first real family support they’ve ever experienced.”
The Pinnacle story so far
Andrew Staite said Pinnacle alumni are now in a vast array of roles across our community.
“They include medicine, law, government administration, research, social services, the arts, nursing and commerce. We aim to equip Pinnacle scholars and alumni to shape our community today and tomorrow.
“We are incredibly proud of the success of Pinnacle’s scholars, with:
- 89% achieving their academic goals
- 95% feeling academically supported
- 93% feeling more valued as a person
- 95% saying the scholarship has improved their confidence.”
Wayne told us that Pinnacle seeks to raise awareness by encouraging scholar and alumni to share their stories.
“This helps educate the wider community about the challenges many LGBTIQ+ people face. It also demonstrates the important contribution LGBTIQ+ people make to Australia.
“We also encourage Pinnacle alumni to remain in contact with the Foundation. Pinnacle’s volunteer alumni manager (herself a former scholar) seeks to engage the alumni on a regular basis. Many alumni give back to the Foundation. They want to see the next generation succeed.”
Celebrate success, promote peer support and ‘giving back’
Andrew described the key aspect of the Foundation’s strategy as “Celebrate success, promote peer support, and ‘giving back‘.”
All scholars undertake volunteer hours in addition to their full-time studies.
The Pinnacle Foundation vision
‘A more diverse and inclusive society with visible LGBTIQ+ role models.’
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