La Trobe’s Eddie Custovic knows what it’s like to receive support when it’s needed most.
The La Trobe engineering academic and alumnus arrived in Australia as a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thanks to the generosity and support of others, he was able to pursue his education and a dream career in engineering.
“My journey as a refugee began as a seven-year-old child,” Eddie says. “I was separated from my parents at the beginning of the Yugoslav civil war. I was smuggled through ethnically divided enclaves by my grandfather and his bodyguard in order to be reunited with my parents and brother. We lived in a single bedroom as refugees in Switzerland for almost 4 years with no rights to work, own a home or drive a car.”
“So when I moved to Australia, I realised that it really was the country of opportunity. It was everything my family had hoped for,” Eddie says.
After benefiting from scholarships, awards and mentoring throughout his studies, Eddie said it was a “natural fit” to donate to La Trobe’s Golden Lanyard Staff Giving program himself. The program helps provide scholarships to support disadvantaged and diverse students.
“What really motivated me to give financially to scholarships was seeing the stories of La Trobe students who were given the chance to come here, particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds and those who are the first in their families to attend university,” Eddie says. “I know how much it means to be given that opportunity.”
Eddie has been involved with La Trobe for 15 years – first as an undergraduate student, then as a PhD candidate and now as an academic and Head of the La Trobe Innovation and Entrepreneurship Foundry (LIEF), an interdisciplinary lab and innovation think tank in the School of Engineering & Mathematical Sciences. He says he has worked alongside countless promising students, many of whom have benefited from the support that the Golden Lanyard Staff Giving program provides.
“Some of the students we’ve given scholarships to have gone on to become outstanding citizens of Australia and the world, and that’s where I draw my inspiration from. We are helping nurture talent and develop the next generation of problem solvers and global citizens,” Eddie says.
“From these students I’ve also learnt that it wasn’t only the financial support that helps them succeed, but it’s also the mentoring and guidance that the University provides.”
Inspired by the support he received as a student, Eddie also gives back to students in his home country.
“I started BH Futures Foundation together with my brother – and we provide scholarships, mentorship, leadership and other opportunities for students. Many of the students are aspiring to come to La Trobe to study their postgraduate degrees," Eddie says.
"In 2016 I organised a study tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 13 La Trobe students. The La Trobe student were so inspired and touched by the hardship students in that country experience that they raised enough funds among themselves to provide three academic scholarships in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When I heard about what our students did for the students in my home country, I cried from joy. That is the spirit of Australians and the spirit of giving that La Trobe had instilled in me."