In her own words (adapted from her Living History interview)
My name is Jamila Gordon. I’m a non-executive director of GetSwift, and former group CIO of Qantas and Leighton Holdings. I graduated from La Trobe University in 1995.
In Somalia education for a girl wasn’t a priority. What I knew was what my mother did - to get married at a very young age and have lots of children. My father realised Somalia was heading to a civil war. If he didn’t get us out he realised we would be all killed. There were 14 of us. We all ended up scattered around the world as refugees, and I ended up in Kenya.
I remember a friend of mine from Kenya telling me if the Kenyan police found me they will take me back to the border. There were gangs with guns. I don’t think I would have survived. But I was really fortunate enough to meet an Australian backpacker who sponsored me to Australia, and that’s one of the moments that changed my life.
La Trobe was the only university that accepted me, and I remember one of the lecturers spending time with me and ensuring that I followed my passion. And as a result of that I switched from an accounting to an IT degree. I spent five years on the Council of La Trobe University and I was honoured to serve and give back.
I connect the university with organisations I feel have common solutions or a common passion, and one of them is Career Seekers. Career Seekers provides internships for university students who come from refugee backgrounds, and the university has got the passion to educate those young people.
La Trobe University has given me so much. I owe La Trobe a huge debt of gratitude, and I hope I can give back even half of what you’ve given me.