12 December 2011

A mixture of relief and a touch of sadness are the emotions experienced by Indigenous arts/law student Zoë Cochrane as she readies for her UQ graduation ceremony in mid-December.

She will be among more than 6000 graduands graduating at 21 ceremonies across three campuses including the University's 200,000th individual graduation.

Ms Cochrane said she would miss the Indigenous students she has been tutoring at UQ under the Indigenous Tertiary Assistance Scheme (ITAS) and wished them all well but was glad six years’ of study had drawn to a close.

Initially attracted to a Bachelor of Arts program at UQ because it of “its reputation and history as the oldest university in Queensland”, Ms Cochrane said she added a law degree to her studies at the end of first year because of a growing interest in international law and trade.

"I have enjoyed the broadness of the study opportunities available through UQ's TC Beirne School of Law. For example, I had a chance to study Ancient Roman Law as one of my subjects which was fascinating," she said.

Since 2008, she has also worked as an Indigenous Cadet for the Commonwealth Department of Finance and Deregulation, receiving a student allowance in exchange for 12 weeks' work each year during Uni holidays.

In 2012, she will begin work as a judge's associate to District Court Judge Marshall Irwin for 12 months with the ultimate aim of one day becoming a barrister.

She will graduate at a ceremony at the UQ Centre on the St Lucia campus on Wednesday, December 14, cheered on by her mum and dad, Lesley and Rob, and brother, Tom.

Ms Cochrane said she was proud to be the first person on her father's side of the family to attend university.

"My experience as an Indigenous student will be different from others for many reasons. I'm fortunate enough to have parents who have been financially supportive and encouraging of my career ambitions," she said.

"My father wasn't provided with the same opportunities as me. He had to drop out of school at 15 to help support his widowed mother and two younger brothers. His hard work has allowed my brothers and I to have so many opportunities that weren’t available to him."

She said some Indigenous university students struggled with being far from home as well as not having English as their first language.

Ms Cochrane said she was pleased to have acted as Student Representative for Indigenous Students as part of the Goorie Berrimpa (gathering place) while at UQ.

Goorie Berrimpa is the Indigenous Students' Collective at UQ and is a department of the University of Queensland Union.

Goorie Berrimpa works to educate and raise awareness in the University and wider community about issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students. Goorie Berrimpa is involved with a number of campaigns relating to the issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at UQ and in the broader community.

In particular, Goorie Berrimpa and the UQ Union organise major events to coincide with National Sorry Day, an annual event aimed at remembering the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed by authorities from their families.

Before beginning her role as a judge’s associate, Ms Cochrane said she would take a well-earned break in Thailand and Cambodia, adding to the many countries and cities she has already visited including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Hong Kong as well as studying on exchange in Japan when she was in high school.

Media: Zoë Cochrane on 0400756547 or Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications on 3365 2802.