Willing change

Laurie Cowled’s legacy gift to UTS will benefit Indigenous women for generations.

Laurie Cowled (right) with UTS student Ellie SladePhilanthropist Laurie Cowled has a lasting contribution to make, and she wants to make it with UTS.

She and UTS are committed to providing quality education for Indigenous students. While UTS has fostered Indigenous opportunities and learning spaces such as Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, Cowled has been supporting the education of several Indigenous UTS students for several years via an endowment matched by the university. Now Cowled is ensuring Indigenous UTS students will continue to receive her support beyond her own lifetime.

Cowled’s legal will includes a bequest that builds on the endowment to educate at least one Indigenous female UTS student per year, every year, in perpetuity.

Her vision is “to help the long-term improvement of the lives of the First Australians”.

“Three per cent of the population gets a pretty rough deal and I’d to like to help to equal that out,” she says. “I think that educating young women is the way to go.”

Cowled’s personal interest and research into Indigenous education has convinced her that women, as the primary influencers of children, provide the strongest pathways to spreading the impact of education to the next generation.

The choice to partner with UTS came after a friend told her “how well UTS looks after Indigenous students”. Cowled says “she convinced me that UTS is the place that I should try and achieve my aims”.

For Cowled, supporting disadvantaged students is a joyful, rewarding experience which has so far paid off: “a number of my students have achieved quite a lot thanks to their education at UTS.”

She chuckles when she hears herself refer to them as “my students”, explaining that she always feels “a bit motherly towards them”.

Cowled has broad philanthropic interests, supporting girls seeking education in business, science and the arts – the latter in honour of Cowled’s late sister. A country girl from Cootamundra, NSW, Cowled also helped establish a foundation there to fund country students pursuing tertiary education.

She enjoys the connections she has made with students. “They help me to feel very much part of the younger part of Australia. Here I am getting quite on in years and yet I have a connection with the younger people. And I feel that’s very worthwhile,” she says. 

The joy of this work is sprinkled with the occasional exquisite surprise, such as the time one of her PhD students painted a portrait of Cowled and submitted it to the Archibald Prize competition. “I don’t suppose it’ll get hung, but anyway … ”

Impressed with how UTS has applied her vision and investment, Cowled reminds others who might be considering leaving a legacy gift that “this remarkable institution needs much support to enable it to continue its innovative work with all students”.

Cowled’s bequest to UTS as part of the Creating Futures Society will continue to enable and inspire Indigenous women to further their education.

“It makes my work there more definite and more lasting.”

Become part of the Creating Futures Society. Visit www.giving.uts.edu.au or contact Andrew Graves on andrew.graves@uts.edu.au to find out more information about how you can make a legacy gift.

Story by Jacqueline Robson
Photography by Kevin Cheung