From refugee to degree 

Fatu Dulleh

Alice Springs is a long way from Africa, but for Fatu Dulleh, the opportunity to live and study in Central Australia is opening the door for her to help people back home.

Living in refugee camps in Liberia and Guinea, Fatu had no promise of further education or a future career – just the desire to one day ease the suffering of people by becoming a nurse.

“Where we used to live there were sicknesses breaking out and no help, so I really wanted to help people,” she said.

Fatu arrived in Australia in 2002 under the Refugee Resettlement Scheme and began to work towards this goal, studying English literacy and numeracy through Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) Casuarina Campus.

After struggling to find work in the competitive labour market in Sydney, Fatu came to Alice Springs in 2005, attracted by the study opportunities available through Charles Darwin University and the broader work prospects available.

She arrived in Alice Springs in time for the birth of her first child, Ahmed.

Fatu’s positive experience with staff at the Alice Springs Hospital as a new mother further inspired her to follow nursing as a career.

She is now enrolled in the Tertiary Enabling Program (TEP) at Charles Darwin University’s Alice Springs Campus, with a view to applying to study a Bachelor of Nursing in 2007.

“I wanted to do Bachelor of Nursing directly, but I didn’t have any documents proving I finished high school,” she said.

Fatu said CDU gave her two options – enrolling in TEP or sitting a STAT test.

“I decided that TEP was better for me because the English and computing skills are going to help me more with my studies.”

Fatu said the program, which she attends two nights a week part-time, is giving her valuable preparation for higher education, particularly with the development of computing skills.

“As a refugee I had no opportunity to use a computer.

“The TEP program is really interesting and very important and it really helps with my English skills as well,” she said.

Fatu has now put the past behind her and is focussed on the future.

“I came across a lot of things to discourage me but I still wanted to become a nurse,” she said.

Many refugees are resettled in the Northern Territory each year and Fatu said she would encourage people in a similar situation to take advantage of the study opportunities available in the NT through CDU.

“Most people in refugee camps really want an education but don’t have the opportunity to do it, so take a chance and go to school and improve yourself.

“You can change your world, change your life and you can help the Australian people and the people back where you come from.”

TEP information days are being held across the University during July for people interested in enrolling in the program for Semester 2:

Casuarina Campus:

  • Tuesdays - 18 July, Room 18.2.17, 3pm - 6pm

Alice Springs Campus:

  • Thursdays – 14 July, Tertiary Enabling Program Office, 12pm - 6pm

If you are interested in enrolling in a VET program, VET enrolment days are still being held on CDU's Casuarina and Alice Springs campuses:

  • Thursday 13 July 2 - 6pm
  • Friday 14 July 10am - 2pm

For more information, call 1800 061 963 or visit