Many of us dream of that lucky break that will change the course of our life; a financial windfall, meeting the love of your life, landing that dream job…

Waverley Stanley’s lucky break came when he was in Year 7 in 1979. His teacher, Mrs Rosemary Bishop saw his potential. She believed this young indigenous boy from Murgon had something special to offer the world and she fought to put him on the path to greatness.

Mrs Bishop contacted the then Headmaster of Toowoomba Grammar School, Mr William Dent and asked if Waverley could be accepted into Toowoomba Grammar School on a scholarship. Mr Dent agreed and so changed the course of Waverley’s life.

“I don’t like to think about where I would be now if that hadn’t happened,” stated Waverley.

He enthusiastically seized the moment and proved Mrs Bishop and Mr Dent right for believing in him, developing into a passionate man, dedicated to giving other indigenous youth the opportunities he was so grateful to receive.

“The School accepted me for who I was, not the colour of my skin, or my background,” said Waverley.

“I was the only aboriginal boy at TGS at that time (1980-84), so I was culturally isolated, but I didn’t realise it at the time and it didn’t matter to me because I had so many friends and I felt supported by everyone there.

“There was no discrimination towards me at all and looking back I think that was because of the values taught at the School, like showing respect for others and their differences. Most boys didn’t even realise I was indigenous, to them I was just Stan. We were all brothers, we looked after each other, we understood what we were going through being away from family and made the most of what we had.”

Not only did Mrs Bishop’s act of faith and kindness change Waverley’s life, but hundreds of others since then as well. Waverley is proud to have been the first indigenous Prefect at TGS and has worked tirelessly to give indigenous youth the exact same opportunity afforded him, by creating the Yalari Foundation and the Rosemary Bishop Indigenous Scholarships in 2005. Yalari is a not-for-profit organisation that offers quality, secondary education scholarships at leading Australian boarding schools for Indigenous children from regional, rural, and remote communities. Toowoomba Grammar School and The Glennie School were the foundation schools with three Yalari students in 2006. Now, up to 50 Yalari scholarships are granted Australia-wide each year. This year, there were over 250 students on Yalari scholarships nationally with an alumni group of 380 studying at universities, working or undertaking further training.

A very humble and passionate man, Waverley does not like to take credit for what he has achieved or is giving to others.

“I am so grateful for the life I’ve been given because of TGS, and I love that we can collaboratively make a difference for children.

“If it wasn’t for Rosemary Bishop and Headmaster Dent, I wouldn’t be the man I am now, they changed my life and gave me a different pathway. I don’t like to think where I would be otherwise, I stay in the moment and am grateful for what I do now.”

Waverley was thrilled to learn that TGS appointed an Indigenous Education Coordinator, Mr Scott Gale, earlier this year. He believes it will add an important cultural overlay to the School and help future generations to acknowledge, accept and value diversity; to not judge someone for their cultural upbringing, but for who they are as a person.

“It takes a whole school community like TGS to help and educate our children, but the real change will come when they are parents, that’s when we can change generational thinking,” said Waverley.

“That is my mantra – generational change – our past has brought us to the present and what we do in the present will determine our future. I think we have a great future ahead.”

TGS Indigenous Education Coordinator, Scott Gale with Waverley Stanley, 2022 Yalari Captain Reghan Bayles and Headmaster Dr John Kinniburgh

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