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University of Canberra graduations tomorrow

Monday, 9 April 2018

Source: University of Canberra

More than 2,300 students are set to graduate from the University of Canberra over the coming days.

Starting tomorrow, the University will host eight ceremonies at the Australian Institute of Sport. Check out times and details.

The University will also confer honorary doctorates to conservationist Atticus Fleming and former ACT Chief Nurse Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Croome.

Read about some of our inspiring graduates below.

Erin-Louise Hagerty, Bachelor of Laws, Tuesday 10 April, 2:30pm

She hadn’t finished primary school yet, but Erin-Louise Hagerty already knew she wanted to be a lawyer – falling pregnant at 17, however, wasn’t part of the plan.

“I was worried that my responsibilities as a parent would mean my dream of being a lawyer would be put on hold,” she said.

“I sat my final Year 12 exams when I was eight months pregnant, had a gap year and here I am.”

Ms Hagerty was in Year Six when she went home and told her Dad that she wanted to be a lawyer.

“He told me to work hard and I feel like I have,” she said.

In Year Nine, she was asked to draw herself 10 years on for an art project. She drew a charcoal sketch of herself as a lawyer complete with a ‘World’s Best Lawyer’ mug, which her father still has today.

She said her school was very supportive after she and partner Lachlan found out they were expecting. She continued with her studies and daughter Anabelle arrived the day after the couple’s Year 12 formal.

Ms Hagerty applied to study justice studies at the University of Canberra having just missed out on law by a few marks.

“That was ok because I knew I would be able to transfer across,” she said.

After one semester, she had the marks she needed to switch to a law degree.

Ms Hagerty’s first semester wasn’t without its challenges. Her grandfather passed away and her nana three months later. Her sister’s boyfriend was diagnosed with leukaemia and a couple of weeks later, Lachlan was in hospital with encephalitis. Her parents were also posted to Malaysia for three years.

“It was a pretty tough time,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of family in Canberra and Dad is in the military so is away a lot. I ended up missing the first five weeks of the semester, so I had a fair bit of catching up to do.”

Ms Hagerty, who suffers from depressive disorder, said Anabelle, now 5, helps her stay focused and is a constant reminder of what is good in the world.

“Having Anabelle changed my priorities and gave me extra incentive to study. I felt like I didn’t have time to waste. I wanted to set a good example for her.”

Ms Hagerty also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice through the College of Law and praised the University’s family friendly atmosphere.

“I was worried about studying with a young child, but it was fine. The teachers were always accommodating if I needed to bring Anabelle to class with me. When I was doing my graduate diploma, she would come in while I completed my exams or sit in the Library with me.”

Ms Hagerty said she is feeling nervous but excited ahead of her graduation ceremony. It will be a big week for the 23-year-old, who will also be admitted as a solicitor on Friday.

Her parents are flying in from Malaysia to celebrate both milestones.

She hopes to one day work for the Department of Public Prosecutions, where she recently completed a placement. She completed her honours thesis on mandatory sentencing for child pornography offenders and said it’s an area she would like to work in.

“I really want to help children and I feel like this is a way I can help. It’s an issue that not a lot of people want to talk about, but it needs attention,” she said.

Ms Hagerty is available for interview

Monga Mukasa, Bachelor of Politics and International Relations, Tuesday 10 April, 2:30pm

Monga Mukasa spent four years living in refugee camps in Africa, fostering a desire to support other young people and bring about positive change.

Born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Mukasa fled the war-torn country in 2001, along with his parents and four siblings, one brother and three sisters, seeking refuge in bordering Tanzania. While fleeing, his mother, uncle and one of his sisters were separated.

Mr Mukasa and his family arrived in Australia in 2005 and settled down in Shepparton, country Victoria. His mother died as a result of the war, but he was reunited with his sister who he thought he had lost.

He said his personal experience was what prompted his interest in studying a Bachelor of Politics and International Relations and chose the University of Canberra after visiting the campus on Open Day in 2014.

“I’m so thankful for the great work UN officials did for us when I was living in the refugee camp in Tanzania,” the 21-year-old, who is also a talented musician, said. “I’m lucky to have been given an opportunity to live in a country where there is education and protection and where children can be children. I wanted to give something back.

“I wanted a degree that would allow me to support young people and bring positive change and I felt a sense of belonging at UC. My degree has given me the contact and the experience with people from all walks of life and has enhanced my understanding of the world.”

In Mr Mukasa’s first year of study he was selected to be one of UNICEF Australia’s 2015/2016 Young Ambassadors.

In 2016 and 2017 he represented Australia at the Ship for World Youth Leaders exchange program where he travelled to Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand and Russia to discuss global issues and share cultures.

He returned from Sri Lanka two days ago, having been chosen to take part in Yowun Puraya The City of Youth, a leadership program bringing together 70,000 Sri Lankans and 100 international participants from 15 countries.

He said it was “a great opportunity to learn about youth issues globally and bring them back to my local community in Shepparton”.

Mr Mukasa continues to do what he can to support young people – now in Shepparton. In January, he created the youth-driven non-for-profit organisation, Leaders of Youth Diversity and Action (L.Y.D.A).

L.Y.D.A provides a safe, secure environment for young people of all cultures where they can learn and share skills, build their confidence and participate in recreational and outreach activities and events.

“Our aim is to encourage young people to participate in the wider community while empowering them to be better citizens,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, young people can try and make a change for the better.”

Mr Mukasa is available for interview

Katie Toleafoa, Bachelor of Laws, Tuesday 10 April, 2:30pm

When Katie Toleafoa was working as an international flight attendant while studying to be a lawyer, she used every spare moment to keep on top of the workload.

“During long-haul flights, I would study onboard during my breaks and during stopovers overseas,” Ms Toleafoa said. “I would stay engaged with my studies by emailing any academic questions to my lecturers. Our rapport was good like that.”

Ms Toleafoa’s commitment has paid off. This week she will graduate from the University of Canberra with a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours.

It marks the end of an 11-year journey during which perseverance has been her greatest hallmark.

For many reasons, Ms Toleafoa was not able to reach her full potential during her final years of school and failed her Year 12 certificate.

Undeterred by the setback, she enrolled in the University of Canberra College – a pathway program that makes access to higher education possible to those not eligible for direct entry.

“The University of Canberra made it possible for me to move beyond my poor Year 12 results and set me on the path to a university degree,” she said.

Ms Toleafoa began studying a Bachelor of Psychology before changing to law, all while juggling part-time and full-time work.

In 2015, Ms Toleafoa and her husband welcomed their first child into the world just 10 days after she sat her final psychology exam. “I ignored the Braxton Hicks contractions and focused on the task at hand,” she said.

“I always knew I wanted to obtain a university degree, but due to my Year 12 result, I thought it wasn’t possible. The University of Canberra is flexible and accommodating. It was the perfect fit.

“I connected with other new parents on campus and found the University to be very supportive and inclusive.”

Ms Toleafoa has been active in supporting her fellow law students at the University. She volunteered with the ISAACS student law society and was a founding committee member of the student-led Women Lawyers Mentor Program at the University.

She is also a sessional academic tutor in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law.

Although she will graduate on Tuesday, Ms Toleafoa’s association with the University is set to continue while she undertakes a postgraduate teaching qualification.

She also recently completed her Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice and has her sights set on her next goal.

“I thoroughly enjoy research and am currently working toward my goal of commencing a PhD in law next year,” she said.

“The University has been such a big part of my life for more than a decade now. It’s been a long journey, but I have such a wonderful support network here and that’s why I’ve kept coming back. It’s special to me.”

Ms Toleafoa is available for interview

Leanne Duck, Bachelor of Education, Tuesday 10 April, 6pm

Inked beauty queen, journalist and primary school teacher Leanne Duck hopes to change the perception and stigma associated with tattoos, particularly in the classroom.

The 25-year-old who currently holds the title of Miss Ink Australia, will collect her second degree from the University of Canberra on Tuesday when she graduates with a Bachelor of Education.

Even with a graduation gown and mortarboard, she will be easy to spot in the crowd. Miss Duck has bright turquoise hair and eight unique neo-traditional tattoos which cover her arms, thighs, left calf and left shoulder blade.

Each tattoo holds an underlying meaning and Miss Duck enjoys sharing the stories behind them, saying her skin is “a canvas for self-expression”.

Her tattoos include various woodland and sea creatures, a moth, teapot and red-headed woman with five sparrows on her crown. They are the work of Wagga Wagga-based tattoo artist Hayden Ramsey, where she is from, with Miss Duck estimating she has spent more than 40 hours in the chair and about $4,000 on the pastime.

She is currently working as a relief teacher in ACT public schools and said when her students see her tattoos for the first time their reaction is one of “curiosity and wonderment”.

“Most are very confused about what the process actually involves,” she said. “One student couldn’t comprehend why I’d waste all that money on tattoos if it was just going to smudge.”

Miss Duck graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University in 2015 but returned to study teaching as she had family members that were influential educators and she was interested in “sculpting the next few generations of miniature humans”.

“I think that I can help people realise teachers and public servants, for that matter, aren’t all generic cookie cutters because my appearance and personality isn’t typical for this profession,” she said.

In addition, her writing skills are also being put to good use writing entertainment and lifestyle features for online and print magazines.

Miss Duck said it’s difficult to compare her University graduation with being crowned last year’s Miss Ink Australia, saying both are “triumphant, personal achievements”.

“I found the experience of winning Miss Ink very rewarding as a lot of hours were invested by myself and tattoo artist, Hayden Ramsey. To be recognised with a national title was surreal”, Miss Duck, who has also held the title of Miss Ink Canberra for the past two years, said.

“My family has warmed up to my body art in recent years, especially after my pageantry successes. I’m mostly excited to solidify their pride even further when I graduate with my second degree from the University of Canberra this week,” she said.

Miss Duck is available for interview

Atticus Fleming, Honorary Doctorate, Wednesday 11 April, 6pm

Growing up on a property outside Wellington, a small town in country New South Wales, Atticus Finch developed a love for animals at a young age.

“I was exposed to books from a young age – many of which had endangered African wildlife on the pages,” Dr Fleming said. “It sparked a passion for wildlife and the natural world that has always been with me.”

There was little doubt in his mind that he would pursue a career in animal conservation, but the extent to which he would succeed in his chosen profession mightn’t have been as clear.

Fast forward over 40 years and Dr Fleming, the Chief Executive of Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), is poised to accept his latest personal accolade, an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra.

The 48-year-old is being recognised for his outstanding role as a community leader and his dedication to improving the conservation of Australian native wildlife.

Managing nearly five million hectares around Australia, AWC is the largest private owner of land for conservation in the world. Under the direction of Dr Fleming and AWC’s philanthropist founder, the late Martin Copley, AWC developed an innovative new approach to conservation in Australia, integrating science, philanthropy and a strong commitment to practical land management.

The organisation has over 50 ecologists working to deliver the largest non-government biological survey and field research program in Australia. This is in addition to large-scale feral animal control and fire management programs.

Dr Fleming said AWC was succeeding in changing the fortunes of the country’s endangered species.

“Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world, but AWC has developed a new approach to conservation that is allowing us to protect and restore threatened species in some of the most remote areas of Australia, turning back the tide of extinctions,” he said.

“To be recognised by the University of Canberra is an honour that highlights the fact we are making a difference. The recognition puts the spotlight on our efforts and is just reward for our hard-working team.”

In 2016, AWC struck an historic agreement with the New South Wales government to deliver science and land management across a 35,600-hectare area of the iconic Pilliga Forest. AWC is returning species, such as the Bilby, to the area which have been extinct in New South Wales national parks for over a century.

Dr Fleming said the arrangement, which reached a pivotal milestone earlier this month, represented a significant step forward for animal conservation in Australia.

“Along with a similar partnership with the Department of Defence to manage the Yampi military training area in the Kimberley, the New South Wales agreement provides a ground-breaking model for collaboration which harnesses the strengths of the public sector and the private non-profit sector,” Dr Fleming said.

Dr Fleming was a finalist for Western Australia in the 2014 Australian of the Year awards and in 2016, he was named by Australian Geographic as one of 30 Conservation Heroes who have had the greatest influence on Australian conservation over the last 30 years.

He was previously an adviser to Robert Hill, Australia’s longest serving Federal Environment Minister, and spent three years advising on constitutional and environmental law with the Attorney-General’s Department.

Dr Fleming is available for interview

Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Croome, Honorary Doctorate, Thursday 12 April, 2:30pm

She worked for 43 years as a nurse and loved every moment of it, but it wasn’t always Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Croome’s preferred career.

“The opportunity to move out of home and do something caring was what attracted me to study nursing,” Dr Croome said, whose decorated career includes being the ACT’s longest serving Chief Nurse.

“It was only a matter of moments before I started to really understand and appreciate how wonderful the profession really is.

“Nursing gives you the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives that I never thought was possible. I originally wanted to be a teacher, so changing lives in another way.”

On Thursday, her contribution to nursing will be acknowledged with an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra. Dr Croome is receiving the award in recognition of her outstanding role as a community leader and dedicated supporter of health services, particularly in the ACT.

Now retired, she said she “couldn’t be prouder”, even giving up tickets to the semi-finals of beach volleyball at the Commonwealth Games to attend the ceremony.

“I have a close connection and many fond memories of the University of Canberra. It is a tremendous honour to receive this award,” she said.

During her tenure as ACT Chief Nurse (2009-2017), Dr Croome campaigned tirelessly to improve nursing and midwifery care standards across the ACT.

She was the driving force behind numerous clinical, education and research partnerships including a new clinical school for nursing, midwifery and allied health at Canberra Hospital, run in conjunction with staff from the University’s Faculty of Health.

She also helped develop Australia’s first nurse-led walk-in centre at the Canberra Hospital.

“The good thing about the ACT is it is small enough to make a difference and it has been a privilege to play a part in helping change the role of nursing in Canberra,” she said.

“The creation of walk-in centres, a homebirth trial and the new positions of nurse practitioners are all things I am immensely proud of.”

Dr Croome’s career began in 1973 at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney where she trained in general and intensive care nursing. She worked at Westmead, Royal Price Alfred and Concord Hospitals before returning to Royal North Shore to manage the Intensive Care Units and the Division of Medicine.

She was also Director of Nursing at Gosford Hospital and the Area Director of Nursing at Northern Sydney Central Coast Health.

Dr Croome hopes her occasional address will inspire and encourage the University’s newest graduates to approach their careers with enthusiasm and respect for others.

“I want to impress upon them that they have chosen a wonderful career in health that can take them anywhere and everywhere that they wish to go. I want them to think, ‘If she can do it, so can I’.”

Dr Croome is available for interview

To arrange interviews please contact the University of Canberra media team:

Amanda Jones: 0409 140 415

Claudia Doman: 0408 826 362

Antony Perry: 0434 795 919

Tara Corcoran: 0418 806 293