Bobby Whitfield will become UQ's first masters graduate from Liberia at a ceremony on December 8
Bobby Whitfield will become UQ's first masters graduate from Liberia at a ceremony on December 8
2 December 2011

Next week Bobby Whitfield will become the first former Liberian refugee to have completed a master’s degree at The University of Queensland.

Having earned a Master of Development Practice, Mr Whitfield would like to dedicate his degree to all refugees whose educational aspirations are disrupted or lost due to war.

Mr Whitfield’s own tough experiences began when he narrowly escaped the civil war in Liberia in 1990. As a teenager, he took care of his five siblings in refugee camps in Guinea.

Determined to fight the poverty and abuse experienced by displaced people, he pursued a career in teaching with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) School System for Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees. He then moved to Conakry in Guinea to teach English to business professionals and students at the University De Kofi Annan.

Mr Whitfield was resettled along with his five siblings in Australia in July 2003, and has since built an impressive career in the field of community development.

He was elected to the board of the Refugee Council of Australia in 2008 and again in 2010, and is a member of the Queensland Government Multicultural Community Ministerial Advisory Committee (MCMAC).

As President of the Liberian Association of Queensland from 2004-2008, Mr Whitfield used his leadership skills and networking abilities to help fellow refugees through the implementation of community programs, projects and partnerships underpinned by MOUs.

He has worked as the centre coordinator for the Annerley Literacy Centre and is presently the senior community development worker at the Multicultural Development Association, where his work involves community engagement, planning, capacity building and empowerment with more than 15 new and emerging communities.

Mr Whitfield is also a guest lecturer on refugee issues at The University of Queensland for the Australia-Indonesia governmental collaboration on immigration training.

Mr Whitfield said since commencing his studies his determination and passion to serve humanity had not changed, but had only been reinvigorated.

“With a Master of Development Practice degree from one of the top 50 universities in the world I feel better prepared to serve humanity in whatsoever capacity,” he said.

“Australia has provided me the opportunity to transform from a child born behind a hut under the moon light with no birth certificate to becoming a well educated, informed, knowledgeable and responsible man,” he said.

Mr Whitfield graduates at a Social and Behavioural Sciences ceremony at 2pm on Thursday, December 8 in the UQ Centre.

Media: Bobby Whitfield ( or Kristen Bastian (07 3346 9279,

**High-resolution images are available for download here