Brendan Murray was 26 years old by the time he realised he couldn't read.
He was trying to fill out a job application, but couldn't get any further than writing his own name.
As devastating as that moment was, Mr Murray knows now that it was a major turning point in his life, helping his launch into a stable career and, at 52 years old, into becoming the first in his family to get a university degree.
He hopes his story might inspire others to do the same.
A rough start
When Mr Murray was just eight months old, he was stolen from his family. It was the 1960s, and his mother was an Aboriginal woman who had also been taken from her own mother.
"My mum got me back when I was about five-and-a-half years old, when the government thought it was about time," Mr Murray said.
"She got herself stable accommodation, stable employment and a stable relationship, those were the things the government needed her to prove."
Mr Murray said he had been living with a loving foster family in the south of Tasmania up until that point, and that his birth mother had decided to move the family up to Smithton, on the state's far north-west coast, where she might feel less "controlled" by the government.
"I remember walking across the road from the family that had raised me towards a family that I was told was my family. Here's your mum, here's your sister, here's your stepfather, here's your family for the rest of your life, ta-ta," he recalled.
Mr Murray said the cracks began to show when he started attending the local primary school.
"I was sent to this school when I really didn't even know this new family," he said.
"I wasn't handling things, I was disconnected, I maybe had a bit of separation anxiety or something.
"But that's where I first found out that I was different, that I was an Aboriginal person. The epiphany I had was ... being called [racist names] and being ostracised in the playground and having to fight in the streets on the way home because of who I am. Kids can be cruel.
"Nobody would play with me, it wasn't good - no friends, racism - it was a very alone feeling.
"I went from this really close loving foster family to - it seemed violent. It was another world to me."
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While children teased him for his ancestors, teachers taught him that Tasmanian Aboriginals had died out.
The conflict and confusion continued at home, where Mr Murray was being "shunted" from family to family as his mother increasingly turned to alcohol to treat her own pain.
The family moved over to Acton, on the island's north west, where the young boy's feelings of loneliness and isolation slowly turned to anger.
"Highschool was the same, but then I became violent," Mr Murray explained.
"I'd get put into institutions because I was acting out. The way I was treated, and the way I saw people - there was a lot of domestic violence at home, so there was a lot of fighting. You know, smashing glass and blood and loud music. That was my environment."
Overwhelmed at school
In grade 7, Mr Murray attended school for a total of 25 days.
"I was just wagging," he said.
"Every time I walked in there ... I was that far behind I felt so overwhelmed. They were slipping things in front of me that I couldn't read or write ... so I'd run away all the time. And if they catch me I'd kick and punch and scream and scratch.
"Education wasn't valuable. I didn't value it. I seen it as very racist."
By the time the Acton man turned 16, he decided to leave school. He could barely read and write, but was good with numbers and managed to get a driver's licence, allowing him to take jobs as a delivery driver and a seasonal harvest worker.
"When people say they fall through the gaps - I call it a black hole. I fell through it nice and early and sort of just didn't come out of it," he said.
Time for change
By the time Mr Murray was 18 he had started a relationship with his welfare officer. They had two children together while he continued picking up odd jobs.
"I got to the age of 26 and felt that it wasn't right," he said.
"Here I was still with my welfare officer and having a family and being a stay-at-home dad, it just didn't feel right. I made the hard decision to leave."
He decided to start applying for different jobs, quickly realising he couldn't fill out the paperwork. In 1995, at 27, he was sent to TAFE to take adult literacy classes.
Mr Murrary said he would never forget the moment he was handed a grade 4 reader.
"The print was huge ... I sunk so low," he admitted.
Pushing through the shame, Mr Murray applied himself, learning to read and study.
He eventually landed a job as a youth worker with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.
"I was working with young men who were violent," he said.
"They weren't thieves, they weren't vandals, but the only way that they felt that they could ease their emotional pain was through violence and running away and then when someone finds them they kick and scream and scratch. They were like me."
Mr Murray spent the next 12 years working with the TAC before he got burnt out - his first "real career".
"I've got a bloody good super," he exclaimed.
"That's something I never thought I would do. Now I can retire and buy my little block of land and have me chooks, that's my ultimate dream."
Never too late
By the time he hit his 50s, Mr Murray's hunger for knowledge was growing stronger.
"It was a bit like I'd got a super power," he said.
"And then I saw an opportunity with UTAS (University of Tasmania), and I took it."
Mr Murray is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts, with plans of becoming an historian.
He also works at the UTAS Riawanna Centre, a space for Aboriginal students at the Cradle Coast campus to support their learning.
He said many Aboriginal university students were like him, starting study in their 40s and 50s, and the first in their family to do so.
"When I write I want to write as an Aborigine person about Tasmanian Aboriginal colonisation," he said.
"That's the space I'm in now. We never go to do it when we were younger."
These days Mr Murray prefers to call himself a Bass Strait Islander, a small nod of acceptance to the fact his ancestors were rounded up by George Augustus Robinson and taken to Flinders Island.
"I've always had the motto - and I think it came from my Cape Barron Island family - is that you get up, you dust yourself off, and you go again," he said.
"Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I say go around in life with a hand up, not a hand out."