28 September 2016: University of Canberra graduate Stephen Petersen was holidaying in Svalbard between Norway and the North Pole with his wife eight years ago, when he first started feeling unwell.
Tests revealed he had tonsil cancer— a relatively uncommon cancer with a high mortality rate.
Mr Petersen had surgery to remove the tumour and tried working from home but the medication he takes for his nerve pain left him exhausted and unable to work in the afternoons.
Despite describing the daily pain he feels as “two bags of cement on my right shoulder” he refuses to let his diagnosis define him.
“I was told I had a 35 per cent chance of being alive five years after my operation, so I thought I would do something I had wanted to do all my life,” he said.
The 60-year-old, whose background includes working in IT and the Navy, enrolled in a law degree at the University of Canberra and graduated with first class honours on Tuesday. While he initially hoped to practice law, a major in financial planning completed as part of his second degree in commerce, sparked his interest in financial services law.
In his honours paper ‘Prevention is better than a cure — introducing a financial model for advising retail clients on their investments’ Mr Petersen examined the Corporations Act and recommended changes to the financial planning industry to better protect and benefit retail clients.
“I’d like to help change financial services law so the government legislates that financial advisers are required to provide appropriate benchmarks against their product,” he explains.
“That way, clients have more information on the product they are being recommended and how it compares to similar products on the market; it lets them make a more informed choice on whether to invest in it or not.”
Mr Petersen also thanked the University’s Inclusion and Welfare team which supported him throughout his studies.
“I was able to sit my exams in the morning, as the medication I take can affect my memory in the afternoons. I also can’t hold a pen for more than 10 minutes at a time, so I was able to type my exams,” he said.
Mr Petersen will celebrate his graduation with a trip to Alaska with his wife next month and to America for a cruise in April. He’s also considering continuing his studies with a master by research or in finance.
Read about more of our recent graduates: