Helping adolescents and young adults through relevant literature and non-fiction is the aim of 2016 Australian Cultural John Monash Scholar, Samuel Williams, whose creative writing earned him first-class honours at Flinders University last year.
He hopes to specialise in writing stories, poems and plays to offer insights and support for young people under the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual ‘rainbow’ umbrella.
“While social acceptance is growing for gender and sexual diversity, there are still social barriers and intolerance,” the 24-year-old says, after receiving the prestigious overseas study scholarship in Sydney.
“I will be very proud if I can become an advocate for my community through this amazing scholarship opportunity.”
With a Year 12 grade high enough to study medicine, the young scholar went on to win Flinders University’s Caroline McDonald Bachelor of Creative Arts / Creative Writing prize as well as the University Medal for his final thesis.
“Although I still have days when I feel that medicine would be an easier pathway to making a difference to people’s lives, I am determined not to give up on writing,” he says.
With the three-year scholarship, Samuel has enrolled to develop his writing next year with PhD studies in England covering research across the disciplines of narrative theory, cultural history, philosophy, psychology and sociology.
He says: “Literature provides us with a way of understanding ourselves and each other, and it exercises the human capacity for empathy.
“By contributing to literature, especially to the comparatively young literature of a country with as many untold stories as Australia, we fight against ignorance, illiteracy and small-mindedness – not against economic poverty, but against poverty of understanding.
“My passion for representing gender and sexual diversity in young adult literature is informed by my own personal experience of the significant positive impact that inclusive fiction can have on the wellbeing of same-sex attracted young people,” he says.
Samuel has been building ties with his 14-24 year old audience with a book club for young writers, a series of poems, short stories and drama activities, an Adelaide all male a cappella vocal ensemble and as a volunteer at the Feast Queer Youth Drop-in.
The General Sir John Monash Foundation is a charitable organisation formed in Australia in 2001. A total of 127 postgraduate scholarships have been awarded to outstanding young Australians with leadership potential in a range of fields, including 17 for scholarships commencing in 2016.
More than 300 applications were received for the latest round of awards from a range of study disciplines, including music, engineering, health policy, finance and history.
Samuel is the fourth Flinders University graduate to receive a John Monash Scholarship, following Laura Diment (2015), Catherine Stubberfield (2010) and Dr Amy McLennan (2009).
The Australian Cultural John Monash scholarship is sponsored by the Australia Council for the Arts and Tim Fairfax AC.