From a young age, Ilona Quahe has been interested in issues of social justice and equality. At high school, she was encouraged to learn, pursue her interests and embrace challenges.
“I wanted to improve the state of the world in some way and contribute to creating a more just and equitable society. I now appreciate just how much I gained from my education at Shenton College.”
While at university, Ilona volunteered as an English tutor for refugees. Through that experience she learnt a person's opportunities are greatly influenced by where they grow up.
UWA opened the door to many volunteering opportunities, where she discovered her interests lay in education and entrenched disadvantage. Through her Law and Economics degrees, Ilona gained a better appreciation of legal and economic systems and how they influence society.
“I am now more aware of the need to consciously design our systems to protect those most vulnerable.”
Ilona wanted to provide a boost to young people from low socioeconomic area high schools, so in 2011 she created Ignite Mentoring. Ignite Mentoring is a youth-run charity, tackling educational inequality through mentoring. The organisation comprises more than 100 university student volunteers who support high school students from low socioeconomic areas on an ongoing basis.
Since handing over the presidency of Ignite Mentoring last year, Ilona has been working at Civic Legal, a boutique law firm. She is also a member of the Perth Global Shapers Hub – a group that runs projects contributing to the local community. The Perth Hub is part of the Global Shapers Community, made up of 450 city-based hubs around the world. The Community is an initiative of the World Economic Forum.
In September, Ilona will venture to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship to study the Master of Science in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation, and the Master of Public Policy.
"I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to pursue my interests at Oxford. I am also excited to be part of the Rhodes community and meet people committed to 'fighting the world's fight' in their respective fields."
Ilona hopes to work in policy or non-governmental organisation roles, where she can tackle issues of entrenched social and economic disadvantage. She’s particularly interested in the role that education can play in breaking cycles of disadvantage.
Ilona advises people to pursue their own interests and avoid doing things simply because they feel they should.
“I would love to see a world that is more equitable and where civic-mindedness is the norm. Throughout the next phase of my career, I intend to explore how to best contribute to that vision. I believe you find meaning and purpose in the service of others, and I will be satisfied with my life if I can look back and say I helped make some part of the world a better place.”
“Create your own measures of success and compare yourself only to where you'd like to be.”
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