From refugee to PhD

26 July 2019

There were many incredible stories from last week's graduation ceremonies at The Australian National University. But perhaps the most remarkable was the journey of Veronica Fynn Bruey.

Veronica survived civil war in Liberia, after which she fled to Ghana as a refugee. She graduated with a PhD in Indigenous Studies.

"I thought I would never be a scholar," she says. "I could not write academically."

On graduation day she received her degree from ANU Chancellor Professor the Hon Gareth Evans with her one-year-old son wrapped in her arms.

"It's been a long journey and that's why I was quite emotional receiving my doctorate," says Veronica.

"It's been extremely challenging. I've finally reached a place where I feel confident about following my passion.

"I lived in Ghana as a refugee for nine years and never imagined my life would reach this point."

When asked why she carried her son onto the stage, Veronica said she can't separate her success from her son's future, or her role as a mother from being a scholar and advocate.

She takes her son everywhere - conferences and other academic events - because, "there needs to be a change in perception about women and mothers and academia".

Examining systematic violence against Indigenous women, her PhD was a chance to face the demons of civil war and abuse she suffered as a child.

It was also a chance to celebrate the power of education to profoundly change people's lives.

When she needed education Ghana gave her the first opportunities, Veronica says.

"Now I strive to be a quanta of hope to many, especially war-affected girls and women." 

Veronica has now returned to Ghana where she hopes to help others in need.

"Last year I was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, which is a chance for me to give back to the community the education - from secondary school to my undergraduate studies - that was invested in me."