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It seems nothing will stop Cooper Lawson from achieving his ambitions of working in the criminal justice system after he finishes a Bachelor of Criminology degree at Flinders University in Adelaide – certainly not distance or even a life-long hearing impairment.

Avid reader, keen fisherman and true-crime aficionado, Cooper has been named the 2019 recipient of the McLean Foundation Scholarship, which supports students from Broken Hill, in far west NSW, who have a burning desire to better themselves through a university education.

Cooper, who completed his HSC at Broken Hill High School last year, grew up on Klondyke Station just north of the little opal mining town White Cliffs, about 300km north-east of Broken Hill. Not only did distance create barriers for Cooper, but his path to university was made more difficult by a medical condition which has left him partially deaf.

“Since I was little, I’ve always been partially deaf. While I was living eight hours away from home to go to Yanco Agricultural High School, I was diagnosed with a tumour in my middle ear, called cholesteatoma. I had to move back home and continue schooling through distance education to allow for me to have surgery and recover,” Cooper said.

“It was a very scary time because it really could’ve affected me a lot, especially all the nerves and bones the surgeon had to work around. I had the surgery to reconstruct my ear in 2016 and had to adapt to using hearing aids in early 2017. It was a big revelation for me, I could finally hear!”

“This ordeal has helped me empathise a lot more, and especially allowed me to appreciate what little we are given sometimes. Because of all the surgeries and recovery times I had to repeat year 11 to have a better shot in a public school. This helped me reach my goal of getting accepted into my first preference, criminology, and help me to get ready to go.”

Now, as Cooper begins university in Adelaide, his excitement can’t be contained, and he is keen to make the McLean Foundation proud.

“I would like to thank the foundation and show appreciation further by achieving well in all aspects of university life, from academically to just having a go at any opportunity that is given to me. You can’t get to have something without giving it a go, just like with the scholarship I have received,” Cooper shared.

“I am very excited to be off to university! I have always been keen to really get out and do something different, this will seal the deal for me.”

Rob and Paula McLean started the scholarship in 2008 with the help of Country Education Foundation. Rob felt the need to give opportunities back to Broken Hill’s youth after growing up there himself and as a result they have gone on to award 13 scholarships to Broken Hill students since that time.

“Cooper Lawson is a special young man, warm and engaging, excited about the opportunity to go to university and confident and assured in his goals. Cooper spoke with such warmth about his family, their values of hard work, and the opportunities he’s been given, all of which demonstrate a maturity that McLean Foundation trustees felt would set him up for success in his chosen field of study,” Paula said.

“We look forward very much to watching Cooper progress through university.”


Read more about our four Broken Hill Scholarships.


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