Our amazing alumni

Lucas Handley — Marine Science

Lucas has always been a wild child. Growing up on the border of the Booyong rainforest in northern NSW, his playground was the creek and bushland around the family home.

When the family moved to a nearby coastal suburb, his boyhood interest in the natural world shifted towards the ocean. Marine science was a natural progression for Lucas and it became the backbone for his exploration of science and conservation through film and photography.

“I was already involved in work around the ocean, but the degree I think legitimised what I was doing in film,” he says.

Read more on Lucas, the whale and the big blue sea

Video Transcript

I remember diving at Broken Head, like going out as a kid going snorkeling and, you know, seeing sharks and big schools of fish.

That was really intriguing to feel part of something, that was a bit wild and untamed and I think, yeah, that's where the love of the ocean came from.

My name's Lucas Hadley. I am a free dive instructor, marine scientist and filmmaker.

I wanted to become a marine scientist. I sort of looked at the different universities around where I wanted to be in my life. You know I wanted a beautiful community around me and Southern Cross University just sort of fitted that mould perfectly. They're in a beautiful location with access to some of the most amazing oceans that Australia has.

The classes are small and the lecturers become friends. They were so flexible; you could study online, you have the support of the lecturers to be able to do that from a place that wasn't just in the classroom.

It was about getting out there and getting your hands dirty. So you can understand things not just from a book but by seeing it and being part of the study.

Since leaving Southern Cross we did a film called Blue which then went around the world. It opened the UN conference on the oceans and that came from having supportive people guiding you through how to make that difference.

If you want something and you think that it is achievable go out there and make it happen. Get your degree and chase the things that matter to you. I've achieved some incredible things now and I'm looking forward to seeing where else that can go.

Kristy Harris — Occupational Therapy

Kristy's life followed the gentle rhythm of a country town. She got married, had two children and worked as an employment consultant in town for nearly ten years.

"I was seeing all these people who were struggling but I felt I was looking at the end of the problem while I wanted to get in at the beginning of things,” she says.

When she found the occupational therapy (OT) degree at Southern Cross, she knew she had found her calling.

“I was nervous after not studying for so long, so I did the [pathway] Preparing for Success course. It was perfect for me, I could dip my toe in and see if I could do it before uprooting the whole family… and then I did, of course, uproot the whole family!"

Read more on Kristy changing lives

Video Transcript

There's been children that I've been seeing for five years. Watching their progress in the development that they've made is incredible and I think that drives us.

Just those little wins every day and they all add together to really great outcomes.

My name is Kristy Harris and I'm a pediatric occupational therapist and I'm a director of Empowered Kids. I'm also a mum to three girls.

I was working as an employment consultant and decided that I wanted to do something a little bit different. Southern Cross was advertising for a new degree called occupational therapy and I thought it sounded very much like something that aligned with what I've believed in and what I was looking for.

At the time I had two children at that point so to leave a full-time job and uproot the family and move out of the area to go to uni, it was a big decision.

The first lecture on the first day I really knew that I was in the right place and occupational therapy was for me and there was quite a mix of people that were really passionate.

I just settled in really quickly. I found the class sizes to be great and every single lecturer was so impassioned about occupational therapy that they really wanted to bring us along on the journey as well.

At the end of third year my husband and I had our third baby. The university was really great with finding placements for me that weren't too far away from home and I was able to take my youngest daughter to uni with me.

The support while I had young children was amazing. So since graduating from Southern Cross University I started a business called Empowered Kids.

Being able to watch a child that has significant challenges work really really hard and overcome them and you can see them having really bright futures I think that's what I'm excited about.

My business is called empowered kids but I empower my own kids as well because I've seen something that I've been passionate in and I've pursued it and I just want my children to be able to see that as well and I'm very proud of myself and what I've done.

Lisa Mizeko — Law and Business

Lisa completed study tours and exchanges to the top financial centres in Asia including Hong Kong, Singapore and China as part of a double degree in law and business. The breadth of her international experience has proved invaluable to her current role as an external auditor with multinational firm KPMG. 

“In Singapore, I was amazed to see how so many cultures lived together and were very aware of each other. It really changed the way I viewed the world,” she says.

Although she is currently pursuing a career as a chartered accountant, Lisa says that law is closely related to her work in auditing and reporting. “Law taught me how to think critically. I may not be working as a lawyer but my law studies definitely inform my thinking.”

Read more about a double degree in Business and Law

Video Transcript

I've always found business and law really interesting. I wanted to understand how businesses work and what makes the economy tick, so I think those two degrees went hand-in-hand and made sense to me.

My name is Lisa Mizeko and I'm an external auditor at KPMG. In my year twelve my career advisor told me about Southern Cross University and how they had the STAR early entry program, which meant before sitting my final exam I knew I had a place and I thought that was great.

I found the lecturers at Southern Cross pretty, I suppose, they were people if that makes sense. I was able to approach them when I had questions.

They gave me the confidence and the knowledge and understanding that I needed to know what my opportunities were and what I needed to do to be successful. I was lucky enough to go to China Singapore and Hong Kong through Southern Cross University.

Two of those were study tours and the other one was an exchange program where I got to study for six months. Those experiences gave me the confidence to be able to know what I wanted to do and gave me the experiences that I need to be able to do my job today.

I would really recommend students to take the opportunities to go overseas simply because you learn so much, you make so many new friends, and those are experiences which you'll treasure forever.

I finished my undergraduate last year and within the nine months since finishing I've had so much experience. I feel like Southern Cross definitely gave me the skills the knowledge and the level of thinking that I need to actually do my job effectively.

I'm excited to see where the experiences from Southern Cross will take me and I think I've got a bright future ahead and I'm excited to seize the opportunities.

Militsa Antonova — Business and Tourism

Making people happy is part of the job for Southern Cross University graduate, Militsa Antonova. “The reason why I chose to study tourism and hospitality is because it is a positive industry.

“My degree has definitely helped me in shaping where I am today.”

Starting as a waitress and progressing through the ranks at the Marriott Surfers Paradise Resort in the Gold Coast, she is currently the Complex Marketing Specialist at the Melbourne Marriott and Four Points By Sheraton Melbourne Docklands.

“With a degree like hospitality and tourism, you can go anywhere you can imagine. Think broadly, but most importantly think big.”  

Read more about Militsa and her tourism and hospitality career.

Video Transcript

I've always knew I wanted to study abroad and also travel throughout my career. Tourism was just the perfect fit.

My name is Militsa Antonova I'm originally from Bulgaria. My Southern Cross University experience was amazing the reason why I came to Australia and particularly, the Gold Coast campus, is the campus looked amazing.

You get views of the ocean from the library. Who wouldn't want to study there?

All the lecturers were so nice to us. The fact they were a bit smaller classes, as well, I think really helped us to get to know our teachers in a more personal level. I got to meet people from all around the world.

The international office organised so many activations for us to get to know each other, to get to know each other's culture, as well as getting to know the earliest culture.

The best highlight of my entire experience would have been when I was chosen to be a data research assistant for one of my lecturers who ended up spending an entire month up in the Great Barrier Reef.

It was fantastic to be able to learn, to put it on my resume and to see this amazing part of Australia as part of my degree.

I actually had to complete an internship out in the industry in my final session. I got offered an internship at the Surfers Paradise Marriott. Upon completion of my internship I got offered three different jobs - in London and one in the Gold Coast.

I was definitely very surprised of how I progressed. I'm currently the conference marketing specialist int two properties in Melbourne. I absolutely love my role it's never the same it's always different that's what I've always wanted. If it wasn't for my degree in Southern Cross University I wouldn't have been here today.

My degree is truly giving me that experience to be able to go and see the world. My journey so far has been so exciting that I really and truly can't wait to see where my degree will take me in the future.

Johanna Byrne — Law and Justice

Johanna Byrne knows love. Once a florist – a career of passion and empathy – Johanna experienced the sudden loss of her husband in 2014, leaving her a single mother to seven children.

Amid it all, she left floristry and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2017, quickly becoming an essential figure in the Australian legal system.

After working roles in Legal Aid then corporate law, Johanna was appointed the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights’ State Convenor for Tasmania and the National Indigenous co-chair. “Law is a people profession,” says Johanna.

“I can help people in a different way than what I was doing with flowers.” 

Read more about Johanna and her legal career.

Video Transcript

Justice fails in a lot of ways. There's always you know people they have a good case but no one can manage to do anything for them.

I want to be in the position that I can do pro bono work for people who cannot access justice.

My name is Johanna Byrne and I'm a Southern Cross University Law graduate.

I was working as a florist and I decided that I wanted to do something a bit more with my life.

I hadn't studied since like 1982 or something you know so it was a big step to go back to university.

I had a setback at the end of my first session. My husband passed away so then I was left single mother with seven children and the university gave me lecturers to help me.

They had other students contact me as well. So they put all these networks and support in place so that I can continue to get through.

All the lectures are recorded so I could listen to them in the car so gives you that flexibility to study when you want.

I won the National Indigenous Law Student of the Year in 2016. I was a bit humbled and shocked that I'd actually been nominated and won it.

I was offered a graduate job six months before I'd finished and had a contract signed so I've started work three days after I finished.

In 10 years I want to have my own chambers and be practicing at the bar and doing more social justice and sort of pro bono work but have a good work-life balance with the kids.

When I started studying there's no way in my wildest dreams I thought I would ever be where I was today.

You hear stories all the time that you know you're not going to get a job in law because you're a mature age student who studied online and so I proved them all wrong I guess.

Nathan Portelli — Education

The word 'champion' might make Nathan Portelli blush, yet the Southern Cross Education graduate is no ordinary footballer.

Nathan has played semi-professional football and represented Southern Cross in the Queensland Universities Rugby League team.

Now, his passion is teaching at Kororo Public School on the Coffs Harbour coast, a highlight of which is helping students build a robot and compete with school children worldwide in Australia’s FIRST LEGO League.

“Footballers can be nerds too!” jokes Nathan. “There’s nothing better than turning a child’s average day into an amazing day with just a few little comments. That’s so powerful."

Read more about the opportunities in education and teaching.

Video Transcript

Teaching is my passion. Every day I come to this job I understand the importance.

You can't take that lightly, you need to really respect it and that's why I try to give everything I have in each day to these kids.

My name is Nathan Portelli and I'm a Southern Cross University Educational graduate.

After I finished year 12 I had a great opportunity with a feeder team for the Gold Coast Titans. Part of the requirement was that I was either working a certain amount of hours or studying full-time.

I was thrown into a job working with children 1 to 6-years-old and I instantly enjoyed that so I started studying at the preparing for Success Program through Southern Cross which then led into starting studying full-time.

If I look back at my time at Southern Cross I'm very thankful to the staff. They're real people, they do the whole professional aspect really well but they also take the time to get to know you.

They supported me by allowing me to study online, particularly with the Summer School that's offered for those that are willing, they can continue their study over summer.

That flexibility is really a great thing. Through Southern Cross I was awarded a scholarship to go and teach in Vietnam for three weeks, it was an amazing experience. Being an educational professional it was really refreshing visiting a country where education is just valued so highly.

I've now been teaching nearly three years at core public school. I do come every day and I want to learn and I grow and I want to get better at what I'm doing. It's one of those professions that the more you give the more you get back and the more you feel a sense of achievement.

You can turn a kid's day from being an average day to a really great day with just a few little comments.

And I think that is so powerful.

Man tallking to people

Jobs of the future

Twenty years ago, many of today’s jobs did not exist. The evolution of work is rapidly changing, with automation, climate change, migration and many others affecting not only how we work, but what we do. Career resilience is the name of the game.

Cyber security specialists, sustainability experts, artists, environmental lawyers, high-performance trainers, urban renewal engineers, teachers or health professionals – Southern Cross graduates are not only job-ready but they have transferable skills to apply across industries and into the jobs of the future. Understand key occupation trends towards 2023.

Diver working on coral reef

Industry connections

A modern university degree is all about setting you up for a great career and introducing you to the industries where you might find a job once you graduate.

Thanks to our extensive and long-standing industry connections in the creative arts, in tourism and hospitality both in Australia and abroad, in businesses – from local firms to multinationals, in schools, environmental agencies, engineering firms, hospitals and more, work placements are a core feature of most Southern Cross degrees. You’ll not only gain critical on-the-job experience, you’ll start to build the professional networks you need for the future.

Students, sitting at desk, in discussion

Student support

Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan and you need a bit of extra support. It might be developing academic skills to complete assignments, or assistance with learning technologies.

An after-hours tutor, study buddy or mentor can show you the ropes and get you through those tricky times. You might need careers advice or housing assistance or even just someone to talk to confidentially.

Whatever the support you need to succeed and thrive at uni – we’ve got you covered. Southern Cross has been consistently rated among the best in Australia for its student support.