Kay Greenacre is proof that university study isn’t just about shifting from high school to uni, sharing houses with strangers and then bursting out into the big, wide world after three or four years of study.
Instead, it can be a chance to feed a passion developed over many years and formalising this intense interest by becoming a mature age student.
Kay left home young, spent a number of years over east and in Europe, and dipped her toes into various vocations including art, fashion, and floristry before setting up her own eco-wedding floristry and styling business, Maminkwink. It was through decorating for one wedding, for a couple who were both botanists, that the idea of her becoming a botanist took root.
Then, a few years later, Kay took some time “getting away for it all” for a New Year’s break.
“Sitting in my camp kitchen at Greens Island campground surrounded by beautiful Karri forest, I had just finished reading The Plant Messiah, by Carlos Magdalena, and I was thinking about the fragility of plant systems, climate change and what the South West region would look like in a few short years. I thought why not take the plunge and follow my plant passion down a new path, where hopefully I can be a part of preserving and protecting what we have left,” Kay says.
Kay had seen UWA PhD candidates talk at her local Darling Range Branch of the WA Naturalists Club, and she became inspired by them and their many studies in biological science. It was an easy choice to apply to UWA to study Botany and Conservation Biology.
“I have always read voraciously and thoroughly enjoy science-based writing, which led me to attending Wildflowers Association and the DRB Naturalist club talks, and then my passion for learning more about the natural world led me towards academia,” she explains.
As a single mum with four children, it’s been challenging balancing home and study duties, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, but Kay says UWA did a great job in switching to online learning. By the end of 2020, she’d found juggling university work and home life much easier than she’d expected it would be.
“I have had a wonderful start to my experience studying at UWA. The teachers, course work, students and grounds are amazing. For me, it's stepping into a long-held dream,” she says.
Planning is the key to success – that’s the essence of her advice to other would-be mature age students
“I am a big believer in the magic of a good checklist and a well-planned calendar. I share the care of my children and have the activities between houses, school, extracurricular commitments, and university tasks mapped out in advance,” she says. “The days I am child-free I can fully dedicate to my studies. Keeping track of what is in front of my children and study assists me in time managing everybody.
“My study tip would be to create daily and weekly checklists of what needs to be done and by when, plan ahead and dive into it sooner rather than later.”
"If you keep dreaming about that career you wished you had pursued, it’s never too late to apply as a mature age student..
“My advice to other mature students is to just go for it, set your goals and go after them, it's not too late and you are not too old.”
When unwinding, Kay potters around in her garden, creating a beautiful habitat for native species with local flora, and spaces for both her and her children to relax in and watch birds, bugs and lizards go about their lives.