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University of Canberra Graduations October 2015

30 September 2015: The University of Canberra will hold its graduation ceremonies in the Great Hall at Parliament House starting tomorrow (1-2 October).

Nearly 1,243 students will receive their degrees in four ceremonies. They include:

  • Bachelor of Laws graduate Sam Rowland, who is the Goulburn Mulwaree Council's youngest ever Councillor

  • Doctor of Philosophy graduate Raglan Maddox, who conducted a world-first study into the impact of social influence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to smoking

  • WIN Television news reporter Jelisa Apps, who is graduating with  double degree after facing adversity

  • Doctor of Philosophy graduate Rob Stanton, an exercise and sport science expert, whose research links certain exercise to improving in-patients mental health

  • Doctor of Philosophy graduate Bruno de Oliveira Ferronato, whose research into Australian native turtles is already being put into practice in Canberra.

The University will also confer an honorary doctorate to prominent Australian Muslim community leader and respected general practitioner Dr Jamal Rifi.

Ceremony 1 - 10.30am Thursday 1 October

Faculty of Business, Government & Law

Guest speaker: Professor Stephen Parker AO, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Canberra

Ceremony 2 - 2.30pm Thursday 1 October

Faculty of Business, Government & Law and Faculty of Health

Guest speaker: Dr Jamal Rifi, general practitioner and community leader

Jamal Rifi, Honorary doctorate

For the past two decades, Dr Jamal Rifi has been accumulating accolades and praise for his leadership among the Australian Muslim community as well as taking a stand against hatred and social injustice.

From playing a central role in rebuilding trust among the communities in Cronulla after the 2005 riots to his tireless work as a general practitioner in Sydney's west, Dr Rifi has been renowned for rolling up his sleeves to help people. 

In recognition of his relentless efforts Dr Rifi will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra on Thursday.

"I am honoured, excited and humbled to receive this honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra," Dr Rifi said. "I migrated to Australia to marry the love of my life and I fell in love with Australia and its people."

Born in Tripoli, Lebanon, Dr Rifi decided to become a doctor when his younger brother died from an anaphylactic reaction to a penicillin shot. Unable to study medicine in Lebanon due to the ongoing civil war, he travelled to Romania, a country he knew nothing about.

He spent four years in Romania studying to become a doctor before moving to Australia in 1984 to marry Lana, the daughter of Lebanese Australian migrants who he had courted for four years via correspondence. The father of five then went on to study medicine, for the second time, now at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1989.

Dr Rifi defines himself as a grassroots activist, "committed to improving the social standing of local Australians through education, employment and sport".

He was a founding member of Muslim Doctors Against Violence and the Christian Muslim Friendship Society.

As the president of the Lakemba Sports and Recreation Club he developed innovative projects such as training 22 young Muslim men and women to become surf lifesavers in the wake of the Cronulla riots. He also encouraged young people to join the State Emergency Services or follow positive career paths.

More recently, Dr Rifi has taken a stand against radicalisation and has worked towards a better understanding between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

He was the recipient of the 2007 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Community award. In 2009 he received the NSW Local Hero of the Year Award and in 2014 he was the recipient of the Pride of Australia Medal State and National 'Fair Go' Category.

He is The Australian's 2015 Australian of the Year and more recently was named the Australian Father of the Year.

Dr Rifi's generous nature sees him regularly getting involved in youth, family and community development projects, with the clear aim to give back to this country.

"I have always been grateful to Australia for giving me the opportunity to achieve and now I am grateful to the University of Canberra for acknowledging my work in such a way."

  • Dr Rifi is available for interview

Sam Rowland, Bachelor of Laws

No stranger to hard work, Goulburn Mulwaree councillor, Sam Rowland will graduate with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Canberra.

"After four and a half years of hard work, it is a great feeling to be graduating from the University of Canberra. Law is a challenging area of study and even more so in practice, so I am very proud to have finished this degree," Mr Rowland said.

Whilst studying at the University of Canberra, Mr Rowland became the youngest person elected in the history of the Goulburn Mulwaree Council and one of the youngest in the history of Australia when he was elected to the council at 20 years of age in 2012.

Mr Rowland's motivation to study Law and to become a councillor is strongly linked to his passion for advocacy.

"I want to be able to give people a voice and I want to be able to help people in a real and meaningful way. I really enjoy advocacy work and I have the opportunity to do that, both as a lawyer and as a councillor," he said.

In addition to his place on the council, Mr Rowland was also offered a job as a solicitor at Goulburn-based law firm, Galland Elder Lulham, before graduating.

"When you are given an opportunity, you take it and make the most of it and that's what I have done at the University of Canberra."

Mr Rowland said the highlight of his degree was the strong focus on practical skills, as well as general skills, such as perseverance and communication, that he said he would carry through his professional life.

Mr Rowland commuted from Goulburn to Canberra for the duration of his degree and said that juggling his role as a Councillor and lawyer whilst studying was not easy, but his hard work and dedication paid off.

'When you love what you do, more often than not you do it well!' he said.

  • Mr Rowland is available for interview

Jelisa Apps, Bachelor of Journalism/Bachelor of Laws

For WIN News television reporter Jelisa Apps achieving her long-time goal of graduating from the University of Canberra will be a bitter-sweet affair.

The 25-year-old is graduating with a double degree of a Bachelor of Journalism/Bachelor of Laws just weeks after losing her grandmother to cancer. Her grandmother's passing followed her grandfather's death less than two years ago.

Ms Apps said that whilst happy to be graduating from the University, the ceremony will be filled with mixed emotions.

"My grandparents raised me and they were always so encouraging and pushed me to achieve. I couldn't have got where I am today without them. Unfortunately they both got cancer at the same time two years ago and I began caring for them," Ms Apps said.

"My Pop passed away just ten weeks later. For two years, my Nan battled with so much courage and her one wish was to see me graduate "for Pop". Unfortunately she passed away just a few weeks ago. So graduating is kind of bittersweet."

The Booroowa-born graduate said the University had been very supportive and flexible during her family struggles.

"Caring for my Nan and Pop was difficult at times when I was trying to finish my double degree. Often I would have to quickly take my Nan to treatment in Sydney at very little notice and not knowing how long I would be there for," she said.

"But the flexible style of many of my classes meant I didn't have to miss out on being able to finish my studies. I was able to do much of my learning online and spend time back home. This meant so much to me because I could spend precious time with them while still achieving my goal and my grandparent's goal of finishing my degrees."

Ms Apps is currently living her dream working as an on-air reporter for WIN News in the Canberra bureau.

"I love telling stories which are engaging and which both educate and entertain viewers. There are so many important and worthwhile stories to be told and I love having the opportunity to tell them," Ms Apps said.

Ms Apps completed an internship with WIN News Canberra in 2012 as part of her degree and did some casual work before landing full time work upon finishing her degrees. She said she loved the practical aspects of both her degrees.

"The hands-on approach to learning really suited my style and better prepared me for the workplace," she said.

"In my journalism degree we often practiced working on television, which gave me a great head start."  While, she said her law degree gave her a greater level of knowledge that comes in handy when doing many of her stories.

  • Ms Apps is available for interview

Raglan Maddox, Doctor of Philosophy

A world-first study of social networks, which has made important links between friendships and smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people , has earned Raglan Maddox a  University of Canberra Doctorate of Philosophy.

Dr Maddox said he's interested in improving health outcomes for Indigenous peoples globally, including reducing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the non-Indigenous population.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to smoke and tobacco use is responsible for one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths. These deaths are completely preventable," he said.

Tracing his family back to Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea, but growing up in Queanbeyan, Dr Maddox commenced his PhD at the University of Canberra in 2012.

"My research, the Smoke Ring Study, was the first mixed-method longitudinal study into social connections and how they impact smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

"This study has demonstrated the importance of education, that achieving a year 12 level of education was protective against smoking because those with a year 12 level of education were less likely to smoke than those without year 12," Dr Maddox said.

"It also showed that relationships strongly influenced smoking behaviours, having a best friend who smoked was strongly associated with whether a person was a smoker, or a non-smoking best friend was linked to a person not smoking."

Dr Maddox said his time at the University of Canberra involved a lot of hard work, but was very rewarding.

"Undertaking research has meant I have been able to find a good balance between being in the classroom, the office, health services and out in the community," he said.

"My research findings demonstrate that there is a need to focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy and more work is required to address the high rates of tobacco use.

"If my research assists to provide better programs and services for communities to reduce tobacco use, preventing unnecessary deaths, then it's been more than worthwhile," Dr Maddox said.

Currently working in Toronto, Canada, Dr Maddox is undertaking a postdoctoral fellowship at the Well Living House - Centre of Research on Inner City Health, focused on improving health and social services among the Aboriginal community in Toronto.

  • Dr Maddox is available for interview

Ceremony 3 – 10.30am Friday 2 October

Faculty of Arts and Design and Faculty of Health

Guest speaker: Dr Dawn Casey, Chairperson, Indigenous Land Corporation

Robert Stanton, Doctor of Philosophy

Helping patients address their mental health and ease their symptoms through exercise has helped expert in exercise and sport science Rob Stanton attain his University of Canberra PhD.

Dr Stanton's research into exercise found patients experienced improved mood, wellbeing and the alleviation of some of their symptoms through exercise.

He said the benefit was associated with affect-related exercise, where the person chooses how long and how hard they exercise, with the aim of doing what makes them feel good.

"My research found there is clearly a role for exercise in improving physical and mental health, but it doesn't appear to be well utilised as a treatment option in a clinical setting," he said.

"It's reasonably easy to undertake, it's cost effective and goes a long way to improving outcomes for people in care."

Dr Stanton is the first PhD graduate from the SYNERGY Nursing and Midwifery Research Centre which is a partnership between the University of Canberra and ACT Health.

"I found working with the team at Synergy and the University of Canberra to be an exceptional experience. The leadership and drive for success enabled me develop a strong academic track record while completing my PhD."

  • Dr Stanton is available for interview

Ceremony 4 - 2.30pm Friday 2 October

Faculty of Education, Science, Technology and Mathematics

Guest speaker: Professor Stephen Parker AO, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Canberra

Bruno de Oliveira Ferronato, Doctor of Philosophy

From the Amazon rainforest to a Canberra bushland conservation area, graduating University of Canberra PhD candidate Bruno de Oliveira Ferronato is already seeing his research put into effect to save native turtles.

The Brazilian scientist, who has been studying in Canberra for four years, will be awarded his Doctorate of Philosophy for his work on Australian native turtles.

Conservation fences installed around the Mulligan's Flat woodland reserve are protecting endangered native bettongs, which are a type of rat-kangaroo, but Dr Ferronato said they have had a negative impact on reptile numbers.

"Turtles in particular are being found dead along the fence line, prevented from reaching other waterways outside the fence," he said.

The South American scientist, who studied at the University's Institute for Applied Ecology, said he had relished the opportunity to do research in Australia and better understand the behavior differences of turtles in both pristine and disturbed environments.

"I really enjoyed my field work in northern Canberra. It provided me with great opportunities to meet locals and explain what I was doing, studying turtles in the suburban ponds."

As a result of his research, a volunteer team is being recruited to monitor turtles at the Mulligan's Flat Conservation Area fence and to protect them from unnecessary harm.

"It's great to see some results from my PhD being used by local agencies to mitigate the impact of a fence on the local long-necked turtle population," Dr Ferronato said.

  • Dr Ferronato is available for interview

Contact the University of Canberra media team:
Claudia Doman: 0408 826 362
Marcus Butler: 0438 447 810