25 years of supporting students in the Shoalhaven

Bomaderry Bowling Club Scholarship alleviates financial pressure on students helping them thrive in their studies and future careers.



Story By

Sarah Vickery

It was the late former UOW Shoalhaven Campus manager, Dr Ray Cleary, who facilitated vital insights for the local community into the importance of supporting education.

Between 1991 and 1998, the original Shoalhaven campus was located at Berry Bull Farm. During this time, Dr Cleary signed the Bombaderry Bowling Club Board and Management team up to do an eight week management course.

A conversation between the course lecturer and the Club’s board about the struggle many students faced trying to fund their tertiary studies proved to be a serendipitous move.

Secretary Manager of Bomaderry Bowling Club, Garry Wilbraham, says the Club was motivated to contribute financial support to local UOW students, after the lecturer enquired about how money from the Club’s profits were being spent.

Mr Wilbraham stated that at the time, the Club generally promoted sport and sponsored athletes and teams as well general community support. He says he was shocked to learn that university students often struggled just to start university and then complete their studies and was under the impression that university students were all lucky and gifted people.

“He [Ray Cleary] told us of many stories of professional people struggling through their studies, having a casual job, working in clubs trying to support themselves through university,” Mr Wilbraham says

“He suggested that the Board could start a scholarship program and he guaranteed that the investment would be a great return to the community.”

And so, with the agreement of the Board, in 1995 the Bomaderry Bowling Club Scholarship was established to help students from Bomaderry realise their educational aspirations. And while 2020 has been a year many would prefer to forget, it marks a special 25 year milestone of the Club’s investment in local education.

“This was not as easy as we thought as some years there were enough students and other years not. The Scholarship extended to Nowra-Bomaderry then the Board agreed to make it a Shoalhaven Scholarship.

After initially supporting one student for one year, the Club’s Board agreed to allow the $1,000 Scholarship to be awarded annually for three years, totalling $3,000 per student for the duration of their degree.

This generous and consistent contribution from the Bomaderry Bowling Club – even throughout the financial constraints of COVID-19 – has allowed more than 30 UOW scholars from the Shoalhaven region to benefit from the Club’s gifts to the University.

Mr Wilbraham says the Board has attended many graduation ceremonies and observed students they have supported, gain their degrees. They have witnessed the students become professionals and received letters and emails of thanks for their support, making it all worthwhile.

“The relationship with the University of Wollongong has made us think differently and appreciate what it takes to get a degree,” he says.

For the students, the Bomaderry Bowling Club Scholarship has made all the difference, providing a much greater level of ease to execute their studies.

Nursing student Samantha Vella, who is in her final semester of a Bachelor of Nursing, says the scholarship has significantly reduced the financial pressure associated with university costs.

“It has given me the opportunity to focus solely on my educational goals so that post-graduation I will be able to pay forward my gratitude by giving back to the community working as a Registered Nurse.

A vital part of any nursing student’s studies is fulfilling several placements at hospitals. They are often required to travel to complete their student nurse placement and absorb the associated costs of travel and accommodation. But the financial support received from the Club has had a huge impact.

“I am currently about to begin this semester’s placement at Sutherland Emergency Department. This semester I put my scholarship money aside to go towards affording accommodation and living expenses for that month on placement.

“I would like to thank the Bomaderry Bowling Club for their investment in my education. I greatly appreciate their generous financial support and I am even more driven to create a rewarding educational experience for myself,” Samantha says.

UOW alumna Brooke Bennett graduated from UOW with a Bachelor of Social Work in 2019 and was also the recipient of a Bomaderry Bowling Club Scholarship. She says it was more than just a financial contribution.

“I had set high expectations of myself and I wanted to live up to all that I knew I could achieve. When I received the news that I was a recipient of this scholarship, I felt a beautiful sense of support and backing from my community, as if they were saying to me “we see your hard work and we have faith in you”.

“Having the financial support provided by this scholarship, the significant financial pressure of full-time study was alleviated, and I was subsequently able to dedicate more time to my learning,” she says. “This was important to me as I felt extremely invested in the degree and social justice; particularly because such a role involved supporting vulnerable people in my community.”

Brooke acknowledges the extra support helped her attain some additional achievements during her time at UOW. She was awarded a position on the Dean’s Merit List for outstanding academic performance in 2017, 2018 and 2019, as well as be awarded Top Student – Year 4 Bachelor of Social Work 2019 in the final year of her degree.

“Most importantly, I was able to complete my Bachelor of Social Work with confidence knowing I did the best job that I could to evolve into the woman and social worker that I am today; ready for many more years of learning and growth to continue,” Brooke shares.

It is in part thanks to the generosity of our community organisations and individuals that the many of these UOW student success stories are able to be shared. For Brooke, gaining tertiary social work qualifications has enabled her to secure a full-time position in child protection and give back to the community.

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