Meet three new Mildura graduates

2024 is off to an exciting start for Gabrielle, Ella and Omer.  All three finished their degrees in 2023 and have embarked on new careers working in Mildura.  Each has taken a moment to reflect on their time as students and feelings having completed such a big life milestone.

After regaining his ability to walk so he could take himself to class, Omer Ntunzwenimana is now celebrating completing his Bachelor of Arts.  Omer arrived in Mildura as a refugee in August 2018 and was unable to walk due to a bullet wound that prevented him bending his knee.

“I do not know how to put this achievement and the joy that I have into words.  From my home country Burundi, to Australia, I faced many challenges that could have cost me my life. But the help of people from different areas has made what I am today and what I have achieved.

“Ever since I started university in Burundi, I have placed value on education.  I remember when I studied English at SuniTAFE, I always thought that I could one day become a student at La Trobe University.  It was my dream to continue university studies, which I abandoned involuntary because of war.

“My journey was too long and difficult, but many people came into my life to help me in those difficult times.

“I really enjoyed my Bachelor of Arts, majoring in sociology at La Trobe University. The contents of the subjects are important to me.

“La Trobe University puts first that students’ wellbeing and safety is there. I have been beneficiary of the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) program, which helped me to feel more secure financially.

In 2021 Omer was a recipient of the Ro Allen Award at the Victorian Learn Local Awards for his participation in the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council’s conversational English and reading program.

Gabrielle Gray echoes Omer’s elation at completing her degree.  She is now working at Mildura Base Public Hospital (MBPH) as a nurse, having secured a position in the graduate program.  Whilst studying Gabrielle worked as a Registered Undergraduate Student of Nursing or Midwifery (RUSON) at MBPH and juggled parenting her three young children.

“It feels amazing to be finished, I can’t believe how quickly the years of study just flew by. I say that was because I was so busy the entire time!  Studying with children wasn't too bad but it was a real juggle to fit in the weeks of placements and shift work required to finish the degree.

Gabrielle’s pathway to nursing was via the Bachelor of Nursing (Graduate Entry).

“I had previously studied a Bachelor of Arts.  The original plan was to be a secondary school teacher. But I was 23 and had bigger plans of travelling the world and moving to destinations around Australia. So, I took 10 years off studying before coming back to do my nursing degree. I was drawn to studying nursing after having kids. My youngest daughter was born with congenital heart disease and after spending a lot of time in hospital with her, I had become keen on a career in healthcare.

“I had studied my first degree at La Trobe Mildura, so I knew that it was a good university to study at.  The campus is less then minute drive from my house, so it was a no brainer to pick the easiest travel option to study at. I also didn't want to have to travel for my placements and I knew that La Trobe Mildura and MBPH worked quite closely together to facilitate student placements locally, so that also swayed my decision.”

Gabrielle was a recipient of a Destination Australia scholarship and says that financial support took the strain off.

“You can't focus on your studies if you are working full time with three kids. The Destination Australia scholarship enabled me to work less and spend more time on focusing on what I needed to do to finish my degree.”

Ella McErvale was also a recipient of a Destination Australia scholarship and says the alleviation of financial pressures enhanced her overall university experience.  Ella has now a Bachelor of Education and commenced her teaching career, having secured a role at Mildura West Primary School.

“Beyond the financial aspect, the scholarship opened doors to various opportunities and experiences. It has enabled me to participate in extracurricular activities, and access additional resources that complemented my education, particularly the ability to participate in the Teaching Schools Program in my fourth year of study. These opportunities played a crucial role in my personal and professional development.

“I'm thrilled to be teaching Year 5, and it's been an incredibly rewarding journey so far. The students are enthusiastic, and their curiosity makes every day a new adventure in the classroom.”

Ella says choosing to study locally was a decision rooted in both practicality and a desire for a familiar and supportive environment.

“My time at La Trobe as a student was a unique and enriching experience. One of the advantages I cherished was being able to stay at home, thanks to the presence of the Mildura Campus. Having a local campus not only made my university education more accessible but also allowed me to maintain a sense of familiarity and support by staying close to home.

“Additionally, the Mildura Campus offered a unique advantage with its personalized approach to education. The smaller class sizes and close-knit campus community provided more opportunities for individualised attention and support.

“Lastly, the presence of a reputable institution, like La Trobe's Mildura Campus, in my hometown, was a significant factor in my decision to study locally,” Ella says.