Giving Day to establish Suli Niulala Memorial Scholarship | Thursday June 1Philippa Lowe
Trinity Grammar School launches 2023 Giving Day with theme of hope and transformation
Funds to establish Suli Niulala Memorial Scholarship
After the huge success of the inaugural Giving Day last year, this year’s event is just around the corner and it’s already promising to be even bigger.
The end of 2022 saw our School community rocked by the passing of a unique and beloved Junior School teacher, Mr Suli Niulala. In honour of his incalculable contribution to Trinity, the School is honouring him by establishing the Suli Niulala Memorial Scholarship, which will be provided to a disadvantaged Indigenous or Pacific Island boy, who has the potential to make the most of a Trinity education.
As you consider Giving Day 2023 and what you might be able to contribute, Mr Niulala’s own life and his passions are a reminder of why giving – particularly to a scholarship fund – is so important.
“His very own life story is testimony to the power of a scholarship to transform a life,” Mrs Debbie Niulala says.
Trinity Giving Day | Video Message | Thursday June 1
A scholarship changed Suli’s life
The eldest of six children, Mr Niulala’s family knew that if they were able to get him a scholarship to pursue an education out of Tonga, doors would open up for the rest of their children too. When he successfully gained an academic scholarship, he headed to Christchurch for his senior years of school.
From there, the pathway to a career where he could make a difference in the lives of young people opened up in front of him.
When he came to Trinity, it was clear he had some kind of ‘x factor’, able to bring students together to find common ground and find fellowship over God’s Word. Particularly through his popular bible study that brought students together across different year groups as they shared a meal – a roast chook – and spent time praying and reading the Bible together.
“The way that this group operated was a huge part of Suli,” Mrs Niulala says. “That accessibility. Making it real. That spoke to Suli. He didn’t have airs and graces about him and he did everything to ensure people didn’t feel that way, whatever their background.”
This accessibility is another reason the scholarship is so important to the Niulala family.
“The reality is that there is the financial side [of coming to a School like Trinity], but then there’s the side of coming into an environment that can be intimidating,” Mrs Niulala says. “Every day if you live your life with your family, the real problems are there, in your life, and then you come into an environment like this where the majority of people don’t seem to be experiencing, or even aware, of the real life, everyday problems. So you kind of feel like you’re living in this dual economy. And that can’t be easy.
“Even my own children don’t look like the vast majority of boys who attend Trinity. But from the very beginning I’ve said to them ‘You belong here, this is your place’. The wonderful thing about Trinity is that there’s so much support and constant reaffirmation that yes, you belong here, this is your place. You will learn and excel here, if you engage.”
A new opportunity for Indigenous and Pacific Islander boys
When Suli and Debbie moved to Australia from New Zealand – where everyone knew some Māori songs and basic phrases – they were shocked to see Australia’s disconnection from their Indigenous communities.
Mr Niulala visited the Indigenous centre in Redfern frequently and was one of the first to be championing the inclusion of the Acknowledgement of Country at Trinity events. The inclusion of Indigenous people was close to his heart and something he was working for constantly.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” Mrs Niulala says. “Maybe not as fast as we’d like, but that’s why this is a great opportunity to be able to give an Indigenous child and their family a pathway into this type of environment.
“We are so excited that we could be able to give a boy – at least one boy – an opportunity to come here every year, forever. How wonderful would that be? If that’s even possible to be able to do, we have to go for it, we’ve just got to go for it.
“It’s wonderful that the scholarship has Suli’s name on it, but it’s just so important that we can give families from all walks of life this opportunity.”
Living proof of the impact these funds can have, Ky Willoughby (‘20) credits his scholarship to Trinity as the moment his life opened up.
“It’s given me the whole world to be able to do what I want,” he says. “For Aboriginal people, it’s just about getting the opportunity and once we get that opportunity, we take it with both hands and just go with it.”
His experience inspired his cousin, who has also been successful in securing a scholarship, starting in Year 7 this year. Yet another example of the impact one scholarship can have on an entire family.
Mrs Niulala knew that there was something exceptional about her husband when, not long into his career, he was being contacted by past students wanting to tell him about the impact he’d had on their lives. These calls and emails never seemed to stop, with students from decades ago, making sure they found a way to reconnect.
For Mrs Niulala, this scholarship fund is a way that he can continue to have that impact for years to come. She hopes that in 10, 20, 30 years time, she will still be receiving word from students and recipients of this scholarship, sharing where life has taken them and how their Trinity education has shaped their life.
Giving Day takes place from 3pm on Thursday June 1 until 3pm Friday June 2.