Never too late for study, says Warrnambool refugee Otha

Otha Akoch wants to be an inspiration not only to Sudanese refugees but to all mature-aged students.

Yesterday Mr Akoch graduated with a bachelor of arts from the Deakin University Warrnambool campus with majors in politics and public policy. 

He has already enrolled to study for his Masters in international relations.

Mr Akoch is the first Sudanese refugee to graduate from the Warrnambool Campus.

Now aged 50, he hopes other refugees and mature-aged students follow in his footsteps.

“It’s never too late to acquire knowledge,” he said. 

“I was inspired by a man who graduated in law when he was 94.”

Returning to study was always high on the agenda for Mr Akoch after he moved to Warrnambool in 2003.

He had lived in Melbourne for a year and a half before moving to Warrnambool for a quiet place to raise his children and for the educational opportunities.

“One of the first places I visited was Deakin University,” Mr Akoch said. 

After a four-year position with Warrnambool City Council working on a migrant settlement program and strategy, Mr Akoch decided he needed to fulfil his educational ambitions.

“We came here as refugees and were impressed by the support of the government and the people,” he said.

“One way of giving something back is to improve our knowledge and upgrade our standards to contribute at a higher level.

“I encourage every refugee to better themselves with education.”

Mr Akoch, who had studied law before moving to Australia, said Deakin was an ideal place to learn.

“They encourage students to do their best,” he said. 

“If there was any difficulty they were there to assist. It’s like a family on the campus.”

Mr Akoch also enjoyed the flexibility of studying in Warrnambool. 

“There were a few times when I stayed overnight to catch up on study.” 

Otha Akoch: “I encourage every refugee to better themselves with education.”

Otha Akoch: “I encourage every refugee to better themselves with education.”