This is no clearer demonstration of the achievements applauded during graduation ceremonies at Charles Sturt University (CSU) than the determination shown by one graduate.


More than 2 000 graduates are eligible to receive their awards at CSU in Wagga Wagga in April 2010.

Ms Ashleigh Brooks, a vibrant young woman with vision impairment, will be awarded her Bachelor of Social Work from CSU in Wagga Wagga from 2.30pm on Thursday 15 April. She is one of 1 114 graduates expected to attend the six graduation ceremonies at CSU in Wagga Wagga from Wednesday 14 April to Friday 16 April.

23 year old Ms Brooks from Dubbo in regional NSW lived on campus in Wagga Wagga while she completed her degree at CSU.

In stark contrast to some of my previous learning experiences, I was treated like a human being when I started at Charles Sturt University and a nice human being at that, Ms Brooks said.

I learnt what it feels like to have true friends, to go to parties, to laugh until your sides hurt and you were crying, and to have someone there for you when times weren't that good.  The fact that I'm blind didn't worry most students.  Students are such a laid-back bunch; they just took it in their stride.

The University was there to support me, particularly from accommodation staff, disability staff and lecturers, recalled the CSU graduate.

Bachelor of Social Work course co-ordinator Dr Bill Anscombe said, Ashleigh is a most remarkable young woman of courage and tenacity.

The University, through Disability Liaison Officer Ms Kerrie Lavicka, was able to provide adaptive technical equipment, including PacMate, which enabled Ashleigh to study and live alongside her colleagues and friends.

I could send Ashleigh the PowerPoint and notes the evening before my lectures and tutorials and she had access to them on her PacMate and was able to do all things with her peers.

Ms Brooks said, I thought social work was for me when I read a book in Year Six where a social worker assisted a girl to find her biological mother.  As I became older I realised there were many people less fortunate than myself, and decided that I wanted to devote my life to doing some good for the world and the community. 

One of Ms Brooks's two compulsory student work placements was with NSW Community Services (formerly DoCS) working with children from birth to eight years and with families at risk.

  Ahead of attending her graduation ceremony with her parents, Ms Brooks said, While tertiary study isn't for everyone, if it's what you want to do, give it a go. I don't know about other universities, but in a close knit organisation like CSU, you're not just a number.

If you're struggling with academic, personal, financial or accommodation matters, there are people and services to help you. I found people will treat you like a sensible adult, Ms Brooks said.

Ashleigh is a remarkable young person who has developed the ability to engage with clients, make assessments and intervene with skills that make a significant difference to clients. She has courage, determination, ability, intelligence and has met the many challenges with a fierce independence, from which we can all learn, Dr Anscombe said.