A Charles Sturt University Bushfire Scholarship has been awarded to an accounting student who twice had to evacuate from Mid North Coast bushfires and sleep in his car with his two dogs.
Third-year student Callum Wesley was born in Taree, graduated from Taree High School in 2017, and started his Bachelor of Accounting in the Charles Sturt School of Accounting and Finance in 2018.
"At the time of the bushfires I was living at a property in Tinonee on the banks of the Manning River near Taree," Mr Wesley said.
"The Hillville bushfire, only 12 kilometres from Tinonee, was one of the biggest fires in the state at the time, and it didn't take long for it to spread.
"The entire bushland in Tinonee was burnt out, but thanks to the Rural Fire Service and the Fire and Rescue Squad all houses were saved.
"Unfortunately, in surrounding areas such as Rainbow Flat, Bobin, and Hillville many people lost their homes."
Mr Wesley said the impact of the bushfires was very draining emotionally, especially since he had to evacuate twice and did not know what was happening at home.
"When I evacuated I had to sleep in my car with my two dogs, which wasn't very comfortable. The roads to Tinonee kept opening and closing, and some days I couldn't get to work."
Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor John Germov said the bushfires earlier affected many CSU students; some were displaced and others lost everything.
"The Charles Sturt Bushfire Scholarships were established to alleviate some of the financial pressure and provide vital support to our students who have been affected by the bushfires," Prof Germov said.
Mr Wesley said he learned of the Charles Sturt University Bushfire Scholarships through a news story, and decided to apply.
"When I found out I'd received a scholarship, at first I couldn't believe it. I celebrated with family, and I think I had one too many drinks that night," he said.
"The scholarship has made a massive difference. I have recently moved back into Taree and the scholarship has allowed me to purchase equipment so I could fit out my own office/study space.
"The new equipment makes me even more motivated to study, and I'm able to do so comfortably."
Mr Wesley is studying accounting online, as well as legal studies, and likes the flexibility of online learning and being able to study at his own pace.
"I chose this career path because I like calculating and working with numbers. I also really enjoy learning about the financial aspects of business, and I find the legal work really interesting," Mr Wesley said.
"Studying online has allowed me to become more self-disciplined, and I have developed better time management skills.
"Before I applied to study I did some research on several universities, and the biggest factor in my decision to study at Charles Sturt University was the fact that it has the consistently highest graduate employment rate of all universities in Australia.
"Charles Sturt University puts emphasis on students developing transferable skills like problem-solving, time management, verbal and written communication, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and leadership."
Mr Wesley said his favourite aspect about studying at CSU is being a part of the community.
"Charles Sturt University embraces diversity and the congregation of different cultures, perspectives and experiences and that is what creates the atmosphere to push knowledge forward," he said.
After graduating Mr Wesley would like to find full-time employment in a well-established accounting firm.
"I also want to pursue further study to achieve a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Accountant Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) qualification," he said.