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Future Generation: Jessa Rogers

Emma Macdonald

A young Indigenous girl from a low-income family falls pregnant in Year 12.

An accomplished 32-year-old Associate Professor of Education and mother of two is announced an Australian National University’s 2017 Fulbright Scholar.

Jessa Rogers’ story is nothing short of inspirational. The first in her family to complete high school, Jessa gave birth to her baby boy and enrolled directly in university – possessing a passionate belief in the transformative power of education.

Despite the almost four-hour daily commute and demands of new motherhood, she graduated with First Class Honours, topped her class and has forged a trailblazing academic career focusing on Indigenous education and Creative Arts.  Along the way, she has set up a girls’ school in Far North Queensland.

Now nearing completion of her PhD, this proud Aboriginal woman is preparing to further her research at Harvard University through the prestigious Fulbright program. Her age belies the number of accolades she has received, from being National NAIDOC Youth of the Year 2010, to being both the ANU Postgraduate Student of the Year and Queensland University of Technology Young Alumnus of the Year in 2016 as well as runner-up ACT Young Woman of the Year 2016.

What’s been your darkest time, a time when you have been close to giving up?

My greatest challenge is constantly balancing everything- including my own health with a hectic and heavy workload, both paid and voluntary work, with my family commitments. I have to take time out to ensure my mental and physical health are in good shape; too much work and not enough time with my loved ones equals exhaustion and burnout.


How did motherhood change your perspective on life?

My two sons are everything to me. I see so much of myself in them, but I also see the future. I think about climate change, the state of Indigenous education, Indigenous rights, and world issues in a totally different way. I want my boys to have the best life, and I work hard to create a better world for them, and others.

How will you cope with the separation at Harvard? How do you juggle work and family?

I will be a fellow at Harvard for three months, and my husband will visit twice. My son will come in his school holidays. I will also come home for two weeks, and then we will keep in touch via FaceTime and online. Working away is a great challenge for me, as my loved ones are everything to me. But we a super tough and resilient family, and have made the decision that this opportunity is one that’s worth the challenge. No matter where we are, my family are always close in heart. We overcome distance like other families do – and it makes time together in person so much more special.


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself in Education and the Creative Arts. Those things will never leave my life. I hope to be in leadership, toward inspiring change within universities and schools and employing the power of creative arts in empowering diverse communities. You never know what’s around the corner- I just keep working hard, and try to be brave in taking on new challenges that are brought my way. I see life like a staircase – I remind myself to keep stepping up.

Read the entire Future Generation series here

Photography by Martin Ollman

This article originally appeared as part of our Future Generation editorial in Magazine: Future for Winter 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here



Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author