Intimate ceremony for international graduate

28 November 2022

Sophie Sindra Hepota has spent the past three years studying an undergraduate degree in Australia.

She left her three young children behind in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to complete her studies' but she wasn't willing to return home without officially graduating.

Due to strict visa requirements' Ms Hepota has been unable to stay in Australia to attend her University's graduation ceremony next week' so instead' an intimate event was held.

"I will be going home on Friday (December 2) meaning I wasn't going to make the CQUniversity graduation on December 6'" Ms Hepota explained.

"The University arranged to have a small ceremony for me which meant a lot to me.

"Being able to graduate is the reward for the accomplishment of completing my degree and it gives a sense of fulfilment of my dreams and ambitions."

Ms Hepota was an Australia Awards Scholarship recipient and completed a Bachelor of Occupational Health and Safety with Distinction' at the Rockhampton campus.

She chose to study at CQU as it was the only university in Australia that offered a Bachelor of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S).

"Rocky was the ideal environment for me given the warmer weather as well as the unique regional Australian community that offers the sense of a home away from home'" Ms Hepota said.

The eldest of eight children and the only sister to seven brothers' Ms Hepota' 37' is the first of her siblings to graduate from university.

Ms Hepota said the practical element of the degree and the fact she attained an Australia Awards Scholarship were highlights of her study.

"Working with the Rockhampton Regional Council - Fitzroy River Water (FRW) for almost a year-and-a-half whilst studying was amazing'" she said.

"And the scholarship not only supported me by funding my full tuition fees but it also gave me many great opportunities in building myself personally as a scholar."

Ms Hepota chose a career in OH&S because she wanted to contribute towards PNGs workplace health and safety legislation review and update.

"I also want to make sure people are provided safe work environments and conditions regardless of their social and economical standing in society'" she explained.

"I want to develop safe work systems and have them implemented and be a success that will benefit our people."

When she lands back on home soil' Ms Hepota will return to the job she had prior to coming to Australia.

"I have been on study leave as approved by my employer Water PNG Ltd'" she said.

"I am currently the Team Leader of Occupational Health and Safety.

"I am looking forward to returning home to my family - it's been a long three years of being away with commitments and sacrifices towards my studies and university endeavours."