Life-changing decisions make Models of Achievement

Models of Achievement launch

Imagine being conscripted in the army at just six years old, then shot in the back while on duty. Imagine being smuggled out of your country in a sack on the back of a truck, your brother risking his life to save you. Imagine coming to Australia, unable to speak English, determined to change your life.

And then imagine how good it felt the day you graduated from university with a law degree.

This true story of Sudanese refugee Deng is one of 20 incredible tales contained in a new 10-part documentary series, Models of Achievement, premièring on Television Sydney (TVS), digital 44, in June.

Hosted by Annette Shun Wah, this compelling series explores the success and aspirations of 20 people and their professional journeys through their university study experience.

Some of those interviewed have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, others fled to Australia as refugees, while others were just ordinary citizens who couldn’t decide where their passion in life lay. Participants from the University of Western Sydney include:

Deng Adut - Criminal Lawyer

Deng Adut 

Deng grew up on his family’s farm in South Sudan, where his father grew bananas and other food crops. The Sudanese government began destroying villages in 1985, leading to the rise of the People’s Liberation Army. Two years later, the army told Deng’s mother she would have to give up her eldest son. At just six years old, Deng – along with two of his nephews – was conscripted. He went through military training, witnessing multiple atrocities over several years of service before being shot in the back while running through a village. Two years later, after a chance meeting, his brother helped smuggle him out of the country by hiding him in a corn sack on the back of a truck. The two brothers befriended an Australian family and arrived as refugees in 1998. After working at a local service station to learn English, Deng enrolled at TAFE and completed his Advanced Diploma in Accounting before deciding in 2005 to study a Bachelor of Laws at university. The first person in his family to graduate with a law degree, Deng now works as a lawyer in Bankstown, ensuring Sudanese people have the legal advice they need before entering the court system.

Scott Reid - Hospital Intern

Scott Reid 

There are not many people who can say they’ve worked as a fireman, a priest, an ambulance officer, and a doctor. Scott grew up near Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west and didn’t do well in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) exams at Sir Joseph Banks High School in Revesby. Interested in science but unsure about what he wanted to do, Scott enrolled in a Bachelor of Chemistry but left after six months. Scott then applied to join the NSW Fire Brigades and was made a fire-fighter but later left to study a Bachelor of Divinity. It was while he was working as an Anglican minister that his eldest son, Jacob, got cancer. A divorce followed and Scott subsequently resigned as a priest, but, still wanting to help others, he re-trained as an ambulance officer. The move not only helped him understand his son’s cancer – which had become palliative – but rekindled an interest in biological studies. In his 30s and working again as a fireman, Scott decided to sit the Undergraduate Medical Admissions Test (UMAT) and studied a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree. He took an internship after he graduated and works at a hospital.

Asha Chand - Lecturer of Journalism

Asha Chand 

Asha was raised in a small village in Fiji where most of the houses were made out of grass. Of Indian descent, Asha’s father was a farmer who couldn’t read or write and her mother worked as domestic help. While Asha didn’t own her first book until she was 10 years old, her mother always wanted her to get an education and she was selected to attend Jasper Williams High School in Lautoka. Known as the letter-writer for her village, Asha was then selected as a cadet journalist for the Fiji Sun, eventually shut down at gunpoint during the 1987 coup. Working for the News Limited owned Fiji Times, Asha covered the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh where Fiji sought re-entry into the Commonwealth fold. After writing several stories that put the Fijian government under the spotlight for corruption, Asha was personally threatened. Asha, her husband and children then decided to move to Australia, where she enrolled in a Master of Professional Communication degree and then worked on her PhD, researching the links between the media and migration match-making among the Fijian-Indian community in Sydney. Study opened doors to a new career, and Asha now lectures in journalism at university.

Ross Page - Television Production Assistant

Ross Page 

Ross grew up in a rough part of Campbelltown in Sydney’s south-west. After attending Airds High School, Ross joined the regular army and at 19 years old found himself serving in East Timor. In 2005, he moved to the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and was deployed to Afghanistan to serve the first of two tours. But despite being at the top of his game and having received a host of medals, Ross felt he wanted to do something else with his life. After remembering a promise he had made to his parents that he would eventually get an education, Ross traded his army career for a chance to work in the media via university. Despite having reservations about being at university in his 30s, Ross completed a Bachelor of Communication (Media Arts Production) and then began a Bachelor of Communication (Honours). He works as a television production assistant.

Robert Beech - PhD Graduate

Robert Beech 

Robert Beech is someone who refuses to give up. Born in County Derry in Northern Ireland, Robert grew up in a thatched cottage with no running water or electricity. The first in his family to attend high school, Robert’s favourite subjects were physics, maths and chemistry. In his second year studying mathematics at Queens University Belfast, Robert developed addiction issues and dropped out in his third year. Deciding to leave Northern Ireland, Robert arrived in Sydney in November 1970. But his drinking steadily became worse and when he was given six months to live, aged just 44, Robert knew he had to turn his life around. He gave up drinking but in August 1997 was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He lost his job as a driver and struggled to find another. Robert then enrolled in an Advanced Diploma in Electrical Technology, completing 12 months at TAFE and transferring to university. Robert finished a Bachelor of Science (Mathematical Science) degree with a sub-major in Astrophysics in two years rather than the usual three, having to complete his exams using a computer as he was no longer able to write. Robert went on to complete an Honours year and then his PhD, tapping out his thesis over four years with just one finger. Robert challenged himself to work on the Schrodinger Equation for his PhD, which was previously considered unsolvable. His work on the equation has assisted in optical fibre telecommunications.

Television Sydney (TVS) Chief Executive Rachel Bentley said Models of Achievement proved it’s never too late to change your life through education.

“This inspirational series takes a look at some of the amazing journeys people have made through studying at university,” Ms Bentley said.

“People from all walks of life have successfully embarked upon a new career through studying at university, and those people have made some amazing changes.”

The series, funded by the five-university Bridges to Higher Education partnership, will begin on Tuesday, June 11 with a broadcast of the launch program filmed at TVS.

This forum-style, half-hour program moderated by Annette Shun Wah will show participants in the series answer questions about their educational journeys from a 300-strong audience of school and university students, parents, political figures, and invited guests.

Featured in the first episode to be screened on June 18 is Michael, a maths whiz who faced persecution as a schoolboy in Iran when his family refused to renounce their religion and convert to Islam. Left with no alternative but to put their lives in the hands of people smugglers, Michael and his family spent years in Australian immigration detention before being granted refugee status.

Education remained the top priority for Michael, and after graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Information Technology) and a Master of Science in Internetworking, Michael now works for search engine giant, Google, as an apps strategist and travels the world as part of his job.

Also featured on the first episode is Katherine, who keeps a closer eye than most on climate change as a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

The daughter of south Vietnamese refugees, her parents always pushed her to “dream big” and despite being knocked back on her first application to study law Katherine took up an international studies degree and transferred to law in her second year.

“Television Sydney is immensely proud to have produced such a high-quality series,” Ms Bentley said.

“Following on as it does from our Enquiring Minds series for children, TVS believes it is truly delivering informative, interesting television that will not only appeal but inspire.”

Models of Achievement will screen on Television Sydney (TVS), digital 44, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, June 11.

The series repeats on Wednesdays at 5.30pm, Thursdays at 12.30pm and Saturdays at 9am.

Models of Achievement and Bridges to Higher Education

The Models of Achievement TV series has been produced by TVS in partnership with the University of Western Sydney. This series is funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), as part of the Bridges to Higher Education initiative. Bridges to Higher Education is a partnership of five universities (University of Technology, Sydney; Macquarie University; University of Western Sydney; University of Sydney; and the Australian Catholic University) and 10 other partners including TVS. Bridges to Higher Education is a $21.2 million initiative, which aims to boost the participation of disadvantaged communities in higher education.


7 June 2013
Photos: Jaime Black 

For more information:

Contact: Mark Smith, Media Officer

TVS program information
Krystyna Pollard
(02) 9852 5417
0452 248 234

By submitting a comment you acknowledge you agree with the Terms and Conditions.