From war-torn Liberia to Griffith

Sanesie Dukuly

Graduating with an Australian university degree is a great milestone for anyone. But it iseven greater for someone who starts out in life as a refugee, can barely speak Englishuntil the age of 15 and then goes on to be the founder of the Griffith Refugee StudentsAssociation.

Sanesie Dukuly, 27, is that student, who next week (Tuesday Aug 6) will graduate from Griffith Universitywith a Bachelor of Human Services.

Starting off life in the civil war-torn countries of Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea, Sanesiearrived in Perth as a refugee with family in 2005.

“My English was next to non-existent and it was pretty hard to get a start in life,” he says.

“I was pretty lonely too and with having to send money home to other family members, Ididn’t have a lot to live on. After a brief move to Sydney I then moved onto Brisbane in2006 where I found work in a meat factory and then in airport security.

Aiming for a career in community services

“Because of some of the traumatic experiences I had had as a refugee I eventuallydecided to do a full-time TAFE course in Juvenile Justice alongside a certificate inEnglish. I loved what I learnt and the course gave me the impetus to start aiming for acareer in the community services field.”

In 2011, Sanesie was accepted at Griffith’s Logan campus where he managed tosuccessfully combine degree study with work as a mentor for the university’s Uni KeyProgram, a peer mentoring program which supports undergraduate students in their firstyear.

“We have seen increasing numbers of refugee background students coming to study atGriffith and it has been great to be able to provide them with a formal support structure aspart of their time at uni.”

As the president and founder of the Griffith Refugee Students Association, Sanesie isalso busy compiling a database of new members and extending the group’s reach fromLogan to Nathan and Mt Gravatt campuses.

“I am very passionate about community engagement and working to support migrantsand refugees from any country, especially those from culturally or linguistically diversecountries,” says the married father of two.

“Coming from a difficult background myself, where it would not have been possible tohave a secure future, I am extremely grateful to Griffith. Achieving my degree has reallychanged the whole trajectory of my life. I now feel confident to be able to go out into thecommunity to support people in need and make a difference in people’s lives.”

Making an impact

“Sanesie has been a truly wonderful student and mentor for others, winning an award foracademic achievement in the school and making a real impact on the life of Logancampus,” say Professor Lesley Chenoweth, head of Logan campus.

“His journey from conflict in Liberia to graduation at Griffith exemplifies many of ourstudents who overcome seemingly impossible odds to create new lives. Through hiswork with refugee students, Sanesie has led the way for many people from the refugeecommunity coming to study with us.

“They have so much to offer and are some of the most resilient people I have met.

“I know Sanesie will make a difference wherever he is in the world.”

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