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‘You want to make your parents proud’


Sharlene King, media officer, Southern Cross University,
28 April 2017

Shelley Watts has represented Australia at the highest level, but the Commonwealth Games boxing gold medallist says graduating with two degrees from Southern Cross University tomorrow (Saturday April 29) in Sydney is the achievement her family is most looking forward to.

“My mum in particular is more excited about the graduation than any of my sporting achievements so far because it’s been a long time coming,” said Shelley, who studied a Bachelor of Human Movement Science and a Bachelor of Laws over a period of 10 years in between her sporting commitments, including the 2016 Rio Olympics, as part of the SCU Elite Athlete Program.

“When I was 11 I told mum I wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “Having a degree underneath my belt is obviously something she’s going to be super proud of. As a child you want to make your parents proud, so it was nice to be able to give them an invitation to the graduation ceremony.”

The Laurieton-local turned to boxing as a way to keep fit after recovering from a knee injury she suffered while captain-coaching the Lismore Thistles soccer club. She went on to win the gold medal in the women’s 60 kg division at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Shelley has started her campaign to defend her Commonwealth crown on the Gold Coast in April next year. Apart from focusing on training, she’s looking at proactive ways to use the degrees way to make money.

“Boxing is not a lucrative sport. But I’m definitely now focused on training and losing weight and making sure I can be as ready as I can be to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in November,” said Shelley.

“I’m looking forward to exploring the opportunities and possibilities with the degrees that I didn’t know were there. And that I didn’t know might be there without having created this sports career as well.”

Shelley will join the other graduands at the 10am graduation ceremony in the Wesley Conference Centre at 220 Pitt Street, Sydney. More than 160 awards will be conferred by the Chancellor Nick Burton Taylor AM.

Among them is law student Kat Armstrong who in 2007 founded an award-winning advocacy group for female prisoners called WIPAN (Women in Prison Advocacy Network). Now known as the Women’s Justice Network, the not-for-profit organisation helps women in prison - and after their release - turn their life around.

Kat spent 12 years in and out of jail for drug and fraud offences.

“I set up WIPAN in order to mentor women because it was two people who mentored me in 2003 when I was on a precipice of so easily going back to my former way of life of drug addiction and crime,” she said.

“I thought it shouldn’t be a matter of fate or luck that you should get this support. Everybody deserves a second chance to become the best person they can be. Without that support and guidance and opportunities to pathways, the recidivism rate for women (currently at 48.9% in NSW) will continue to increase unless we have programs that make significant change to their lives so they can become contributing members of society.”

Kat’s efforts at WIPAN, where she puts in 50 hours a week but takes no wage, were recognised in 2011 when she won the Legal and Justice Foundation’s Law and Justice Volunteer Award.

She said the knowledge and skills gained in studying a Bachelor of Laws will help her set up a legal hub at the Women’s Justice Network (WJN) where she is the CEO.

“Notable barristers and solicitors in the Sydney area are offering pro-bono services to WJN. I can coordinate and contribute to the legal hub. Our service will help clients with legal advice while in prison but also helps with legal matters they confront after leaving prison, like domestic violence and debt.”

Ceremony details

10am Saturday April 29
Wesley Conference Centre, 220 Pitt Street, Sydney

Graduands from all the University’s Schools and Colleges will be represented: School of Arts and Social Sciences; School of Business and Tourism including 53 graduands from The Hotel School Sydney and Melbourne; School of Education; School of Environment, Science and Engineering; Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples; School of Health and Human Sciences; School of Law and Justice; and SCU College.

Two Doctor of Business Administrations (DBA) will be awarded to:
• Wayne Beilby for ‘Corporate Governance: Board Diversity and Ethnic Minority Directors on New Zealand's Stock Exchange Top 50 Boards.
• Tong Chi Kwong Thomas for ‘Identification of Critical Success Factors for Contractors in Hong Kong’.

The Occasional Address will be delivered by Ms Allison Doorbar BA(Hons)(UOS), Managing Partner of EduWorld.