Originally published on unimelb.com.au
When brothers Ali, Mohammad and Hussain Alamein fled Iraq as children in the 1990s, they couldn’t have imagined the success they would find thanks to a scholarship.
Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to education. It also states that ‘higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.’
However, in Australia, as in many other countries, there are financial barriers to education that some people simply cannot break through. That’s why Trinity is attempting to improve access and equity through our scholarship program, which we plan to grow into the largest college scholarship program in Australia by 2023.
Already, this program has touched, and indeed transformed, many lives.
Ali, Mohammad and Hussain Alamein believed that a university education was out of reach for them. As children they fled Iraq, and Saddam Hussein’s regime, but ended up in a detention centre in Nauru. Conditions were harsh and the boys suffered the physical and emotional effects of living in a camp and not knowing what the future held.
After a year on Nauru, the brothers were reunited with their father in 2002, who had already successfully entered Australia, and settled in Shepparton in Victoria’s north. The boys were good students and successfully learnt English and achieved high marks in the VCE, but the costs associated with a move to Melbourne for further education were prohibitive.
When Ali and Mohammad learned of – and successfully secured – scholarships that would support them to study at the University of Melbourne and live at Trinity, they felt an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. ‘I still remember the time I got the call – it was at 2.33pm,’ laughs Ali. ‘Getting the scholarship to the university I wanted to go to and getting the scholarship to reside at Trinity College … it made everything else possible,’ he says. The brothers completely immersed themselves in college life, and among other things, Ali received the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award in 2006 and was the Trinity College Associated Clubs (TCAC) community representative in 2008.
A few years later, Hussain followed in his brothers’ footsteps with a scholarship to Trinity. The social and financial support meant that Ali, Hussain and Mohammad could put a difficult part of their lives behind them and step into a new world of success. ‘We didn’t have a clue what college was,’ says Mohammad. But once living on campus, the Alamein brothers found people who were interested in their stories and wanted to share their lives.
‘When I came to Australia, I was a refugee; when I left Shepparton, I was a rural kid trying to achieve some success; then coming to Trinity, I realised that I didn’t have to be a specific type of person, I could be whoever I wanted to be,’ says Hussain.
Due to the financial support the three brothers received, they are now educated and participating in society in a way that is far beyond their initial prospects. They thought they would all be fruit pickers in country Victoria, but instead, Ali is now a civil engineer studying his MBA in Barcelona, Mohammad is doing physician training at Monash Health and Hussain is completing his third-year medical placement in Shepparton.
With this proof that scholarships can change the course of people’s lives, we have announced a series of new scholarships this year, including 16 places per year for disadvantaged domestic students to live in our Residential College for three years, and six scholarships per year for Cambodian or Indonesian students who otherwise would not have had the chance to study abroad – or attain a tertiary education at all. Valued at around $300,000 each, the impact of these scholarships will be life changing.
Campbell Bairstow, Trinity College’s Scholarships Registrar, says that these scholarships are funded through longstanding endowments and the investment income from these, with every dollar donated to the program put towards student support. He adds that, of all the financial contributions made to Trinity by former students, 30 per cent of these have come from people who have been the recipients of scholarships themselves, reflecting the transformative power of scholarships and their perpetual impact in helping make the world a better place.