Finding personal meaning
as a mature aged student

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UC's Mature Age Students

Leanne Manthorpe

Graduate Certificate in Professional Writing (Editing) and Graduate Diploma in Librarianship (Canberra College of Advanced Education)

Leeanne Manthorpe

UC alumna twice over, Leanne Manthorpe has some sound advice for those looking to upskill or give university a go for the first time.

“Go online and enrol even if, like me, your hand is shaking as you click the send button,” Leanne says. “If you don’t take the plunge, you won’t reap the benefits.”

“Also, accept that some things may have to change so you can fit uni into your life. If studying is something you really want to do, it should be a priority.”

Leanne completed a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at the Canberra College of Advanced Education in 1986. The college became the University of Canberra in 1990 and Leanne returned to study professional writing (editing) last year. She wanted to learn new skills and re-enter the workforce.

As well as juggling her study and family commitments, the 54-year-old was on the editorial committee for Pulling Threads: FIRST 2016, an anthology of creative writing produced each year by University of Canberra students.

“I underestimated what the FIRST experience would teach me,” she says.

“Where else can editing students involve themselves in a real-life publishing project? I also learned how to open myself up to constructive criticism, the value of practicing my skill set every day and that it’s ok to ask for help.”

Be it problem-solving, meeting deadlines or juggling schedules and priorities while raising a family, Leanne says mature age students have useful skills they can apply to their study.

“The other advantage is that we’ve had time to work out what we want university to give us and where we want to be and this makes it easier to target our efforts,” she says.

But she acknowledges the challenges created by commitments such as family and work.

“There were times during my course when I felt I was being stretched on all fronts but you just have to do your best,” she says. “Every mature age student is in the same position and talking with fellow students puts this in perspective.”

Margaret Wright OAM

Diploma of Teaching and Bachelor of Education (Canberra College of Advanced Education)

Margaret Wright

They say you’re never too old to learn, and Margaret Wright is testament to that belief.

Margaret travelled the world as a young adult and met an English gentleman along the way, who she went on to marry and have three children with.But her commitments as a mother and wife didn’t stop her from pursuing her passion for learning.

A teacher at heart, Margaret enrolled at the Canberra College of Advanced Education to strengthen her qualifications and completed a Diploma of Teaching and a Bachelor of Teaching in 1981.

She worked as a classroom teacher at Urambi Primary School in Canberra where she developed a musical literacy program using recorders. The program was a huge success. Every student learned to read music.

“This resulted in the then well-known Urambi Recorder Consort,” she recalls. “The children, dressed in elaborate Elizabethan costumes, played music of the Renaissance and Baroque. They won the Sydney, National and Goulburn Eisteddfods for many years.”

In 1991, Margaret was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study her ideas further in Britain.

She retired from teaching two years later, but her love of music remained and she was asked to teach the recorder at local schools across Canberra, including at the University of the Third Age (U3A), with which the University of Canberra is affiliated.

The 76-year-old still tutors and conducts recorder classes as a volunteer for the U3A. She is currently teaching around 130 retired adults across five graded groups. She hopes they can join the Canberra Recorder Orchestra.

“Most of my students appreciate the opportunity to learn and some have been with me for 20 years,” she says. “Some say that it has been a lifelong dream to play in an orchestra, so it’s wonderful they have realised or are on the road to achieving that dream.”

Margaret was awarded on Order of Australia Medal in 2011 in recognition of her lifetime of volunteer work. She is also a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, having had drawings of Australian geckos published in its journal.

Sarah Mapham

Bachelor of Midwifery

Sarah Mapham

It wasn’t until Sarah Mapham had her second child at age 25 that she decided she wanted to become a midwife.

“Child birth can be a daunting experience, but having continuity of care – the same midwife throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and post-birth – can make all the difference,” Sarah says. “I want other mothers-to-be to know that giving birth doesn’t have to be scary and it’s not like what you see in the movies.”

Sarah left school at age 16 and worked predominantly in administration and hospitality roles for the next 15 years.

In 2015, at age 32, she undertook the UC Prep course– a pathway program offered by the University of Canberra College for those wanting to study again. She says it was a great way to prepare for studying at the University of Canberra.

“They were very clear in explaining what to expect at university,” she explains.“They also helped me with my essay writing skills. I’d definitely recommend UC Prep to anyone looking to study at UC.”

Sarah is now in her second year of a Bachelor of Midwifery degree. While the mother-of-four admits juggling her time can be tricky, she believes there is an advantage in studying as a mature age student.

“I’m definitely more focused now as I know what I want to do and I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” she says. “The skills I’m learning in my degree are universal and I can take them anywhere. My daughter and eldest son also like the idea that I’m studying like them.”


Leanne Manthorpe

Graduate Diploma in Librarianship (1987) and Graduate Certificate in Professional Writing (2016)


Margaret Wright

Diploma of Teaching (1980), Bachelor of Education (1981)


Sarah Mapham

Bachelor of Midwifery student


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