Jacob Erieau – AVCAT Scholar

Sometimes the most extraordinary thing you can do is be part of healing your family and trying to do better than those who came before you.

By Jacob Erieau

Jacob (centre) with grandparents Dorothy & ‘Pa’ Geoffrey Yeomans

My grandfather Geoffrey, who we affectionately call Pa, served two years in Vietnam. Unfortunately, they were also the first two years of his married life, as he was conscripted during his honeymoon. I’m sure, like many, Grandma, also affectionately called Grammy, found that her new husband came back from Vietnam a changed man. 

I grew up in Papua New Guinea and didn’t get to spend much time with Pa. When he and Grammy visited, he would sweat profusely in tropical conditions that he only knew from Vietnam.

When we moved back to Australia, all the family went to Pa and Grammy’s church, and I often spent weekends with them. I remember KFC was the go-to for lunch after church when we felt like having an extra-special day. I didn’t care so much as to why, I was happy to spend lunch eating the coleslaw.

Jacob’s ‘Pa’ Geoffrey Yeomans

When Pa and Grammy moved into a new place some years ago, it was outfitted with a massive room for his model trains. Pa always had an obsession with model trains — perhaps it had something to do with him being a plant operator in the Vietnam War. For years, my family thought I would inherit the obsession, but alas… I am thankful he has a hobby he continues to enjoy.

I understand that having Pa still around, though he is a veteran, is a massive privilege. Even though I moved away to Sydney, I know that generational healing continues to occur. Healing through all the little compounding interactions our family has with each other as we learn how to love each other.

L-R: Jacob, Chelsea, Nick, Pa, Ben, Tim, Grammy, Darlene, & Zac on ANZAC Day

I feel internally conflicted that my family’s suffering is what has provided me with this opportunity. The Long Tan Bursary has been invaluable to my study at Macquarie University. It has allowed me to work one less shift each week, which has freed my time and my brain space to participate in university life to the utmost. It is helping me maintain marks I was never able to achieve at high school, and allowed me to serve two terms as an executive in the Christian Union student group at university, garnering significant leadership experience. 

At the AVCAT scholarship presentation, the immensity of the history of war in Australia and, the incredible support of AVCAT, were both bearing down upon me. There are so many tales of AVCAT scholars doing extraordinary things. Yet, just maybe, sometimes the most extraordinary thing you can do is be part of healing your family and trying to do better than those who came before you.

Jacob was awarded the Long Tan Bursary in 2023.

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