The inaugural winner of the Wheatley Bursary Ocholamero Oroto
The inaugural winner of the Wheatley Bursary Ocholamero Oroto
7 June 2010

UQ student Ocholamero Oroto is no stranger to hard work, balancing full-time work with full-time study commitments.

But life will hopefully be a little easier for the former Sudanese refugee after being named the winner of the inaugural Wheatley Bursary.

The scholarship was established from a bequest by the late Marcelle Waldon, a former student in UQ's Department of Government (now known as POLSIS), and helps support a second-year political science or public policy student.

"I feel huge relief. It will allow me to reduce my working hours and buy books – this is going to directly help with my education," Mr Oroto said.

Originally from southern Sudan, Mr Oroto was forced to flee to Uganda after his uncle was arrested and killed during the country's civil war. He was just 10 years old.

He spent the next 11 years in a Ugandan refugee camp before coming to Australia as part of a UN resettlement program. Here he joined his mother who had arrived the previous year.

"It was an emotional day," he said of their reunion.

Once in Australia, Mr Oroto said he felt it was important to "study and gain knowledge".

"I would not have that opportunity back home," he said.

"I survived through the war and I feel I have to make a difference, that there is something I am meant to do."

After enrolling at his local TAFE and gaining a Diploma in Community Development and Welfare, he secured a place at UQ and studied health science initially before transferring to POLSIS to major in politics.

To support himself Mr Oroto works at nights for the Salvation Army in Spring Hill.

"I am very lucky that my work understands and is supportive of me. If I have a lecture in the morning, I will drive to the university and sleep in the car for a couple of hours before I go to class."

Mr Oroto said his plans after graduation were undecided, although he would like to help his homeland in some way.

"I am not sure yet what I will do when I graduate, I still think of Sudan as home and want to be able to help there."

Media: Gillian Ievers (07 3365 3043,