From child soldier to masters graduate, Isaac Moses proves grit and determination breeds success

Former child soldier Isaac Moses has a message for his fellow Federation University graduates: whether you rise or fall, keep going, be determined, be committed, and work hard to succeed.

These four pillars of strength have helped Mr Moses survive an almost unimaginable past, carve out a new life in a new country and turn his experience to helping others.

And it’s an ethos he tries to pass on to the young people he comes across as a social worker with Berry Street.

CAPS AWAY: FedUni Science and Technology graduates celebrate their degrees. Picture: Lachlan Bence

CAPS AWAY: FedUni Science and Technology graduates celebrate their degrees. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Mr Moses, one of 600 FedUni students to graduate in four ceremonies this week, was awarded his Masters in Social Work and gave the valedictory speech at Wednesday afternoon’s graduation ceremony at the Mt Helen campus.

Originally from South Sudan, Mr Moses was forced to become a child soldier at 13 before escaping from the rebel army aged 15 and fleeing to a refugee camp.

He walked, barefoot, from Ethiopia to Sudan where he worked 12-hours a day for $10 in a refugee camp, and when he had saved $400 he travelled to Egypt to board a boat with people smugglers sailing toward a new life.

Detected and sent back to yet another refugee camp, in 2006 he was finally granted a humanitarian refugee visa to come to Australia, and landed in Ballarat.

VALEDICTORY: Isaac Moses delivered the valedictory speech after graduating from FedUni with a Masters in social work.

VALEDICTORY: Isaac Moses delivered the valedictory speech after graduating from FedUni with a Masters in social work.

“There was nothing similar except bananas in the supermarket – the people, language, culture, environment, weather, you name it. I went in to absolute shock and I didn’t know English so I had to get my head around everything.”

He tried TAFE and year 12, but failed at his first attempt. 

Taking his own advice, he refused to give up.

After a string of jobs he applied as a mature aged student to go to university and in 2010 was offered a spot at Charles Darwin University to complete a bachelor’s degree of humanitarian and community studies.

“Because of my experience as a person and as a refugee, I wanted to do something humanitarian and get in to a field where I could help refugees,” he said.

During his studies he learned about social workers and decided he wanted to pursue it as a career.

NEW MUM: Inderpreet Kaur Mangat and her son Gavin Singh, seven weeks, after her graduation. Picture: Lachlan Bence

NEW MUM: Inderpreet Kaur Mangat and her son Gavin Singh, seven weeks, after her graduation. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Working with young people in his role at Berry Street, Mr Moses believes education is a big issue.

“In South Sudan we didn’t have the opportunity to go to school and if we were given the opportunity we would go to school every day, Monday to Sunday,” he said.

“In this society we are told to go to school, so when I see kids who come from families where school is not a priority it breaks my heart.”

Mr Moses joined hundreds of fellow business, education, arts, science and health graduates for the graduation ceremonies this week.

“This week’s graduation ceremonies are a highlight of the year for the graduands and their families and for the broader university community,” said university registrar Claire Shaw.

“We wish our graduating students every future success as they embark on the next stage of their lives.”

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Bachelor of Information Technology (professional practice) graduate Sofia Mae Neri Sabas was awarded the University Medal, the highest academic award the university can bestow on a graduating student.

During Wednesday’s ceremonies, eminent engineer and hydrogeologist Professor Rae Mackay was granted the title Emeritus Professor, and Ballarat community leader and accountant Colin Prowse was awarded an honorary doctorate.

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