Sunday, 7 October 2012, 10.30am
Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, fellow graduates. It is indeed a great honour to have been chosen from amongst such an outstanding group of graduates to speak on behalf of you all.
Clearly I am a mature student, so my academic journey has been a relatively long one! On finishing school I studied at the London College of Fashion and spent the next 19 years working in the fashion industry. A couple of years after moving to Perth and while on a much needed holiday in Thailand, I had time to contemplate my life journey to that point and consider whether the career choices I had made were continuing to keep me engaged and interested. Perhaps, the beach, sun and a cold beverage in my hand attributed to my next move - which was to turn to my husband and tell him that I needed to make some changes. I think he thought I was trading him in but all I wanted to do was follow my deep seated interest in medical science.
I have always been fascinated with the intricacies of the human body and am an avid fan of the late, Professor Chris O’Brien. At the time that we were in Thailand, I was reading his autobiography “Never Say Die”. Perhaps these may have had some influence on how I found myself later that year, beginning a new Journey at ECU, surrounded by people with a passion for human biology & medical sciences.
I want to be able to leave you today with a couple of simple messages that I have found mean so much to me and will hopefully find a place to settle in your minds.
I admire the writer, speaker and philanthropist John Kehoe. John is a Canadian who moved into the wilderness for three years to contemplate the inner workings of the human mind. He wrote the book ‘Mind Power’ which I use as a reference point for my own thinking. Amongst a number of philosophies Kehoe proposes, I enjoy the following;
‘Hard work without the balance of leisure almost always leads to failure’. Whilst there is no substitute for effort and results don’t come to most of us without sacrifice, we need to have fun, seek out spare time and the people that mean something to us.
Ultimately, we need to understand and acknowledge what is important to us. Is it having a particular job, about having money and holidays or is it about spending time with your family. Perhaps what is important to you is a combination of all or some of these? Whatever it may be, we need to do the important things, leave the rest for later and try our best to achieve a balance.
At the time I wanted to change my career I didn’t recall the following Kehoe idea. He wrote, ‘ No amount of money, no matter how much it is, will ever compensate you sufficiently for remaining in a job that is drudgery and robs you of your spirit, or one that prevents you from fulfilling a dream’. I got to the point in my career where I earned a decent salary and was I think, respected by my peers - but something was still missing which for me was a negative answer to the question ‘Am I making a difference to other people’s lives through my work’. I know that by graduating today with you all, I have in some small way, begun to make the difference that I had been searching for.
Kehoe also wrote, ‘I have never seen a person, however great or exalted his or her station might be, who did not do better work and put forth a greater effort under the spirit of approval’. I don’t think I am alone when I say I detest exams, but each semester when results came out I was spurred on by what I achieved. Even more important to me was the pride that was so obvious from my husband and daughter. Their delight gave me the resolve to continue on through the next stage of late nights and long days of studying. I hope that you too, will recognise such spirit of approval and enjoy its benefits. Fellow graduates, you have the admiration of everyone here today and those who have you in their thoughts. Our graduation is our new spirit of approval and is evidence of our effort and determination and grants us the right to hold our heads up high.
To our families, friends and other supporters, especially to the staff of ECU who have gotten us all to this point....we thank you most sincerely.