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Determination and a four-legged friend make graduation a reality

19 May 2014

Suzanne Waghorn won’t be alone when she crosses the stage of the Melbourne Town Hall during the annual Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) Graduation ceremony on Thursday night.

The blind NMIT graduate will receive her Diploma of Remedial Massage and Diploma of Reflexology accompanied by Jikara – her Seeing Eye dog who has been at her side all through her two-year dual diploma course at NMIT’s Preston campus.

“Having Jikara with me has meant that I could tackle further study on my own terms which means being able to get to TAFE on my own and not having to rely on others,” said Suzanne. “She’s quiet in class but knowing she’s there has given me that extra bit of confidence to complete my studies.”

While Suzanne will be handed her Diploma on stage, Jikara won’t be left out and will be awarded a special Certificate of Appreciation in front of about 1400 NMIT graduates and guests.

“Our Remedial Massage teaching staff knew how important Jikara was to Suzanne and embraced her loyalty and dedication to assisting with Suzanne’s successful completion of the Diploma of Remedial Massage. They also loved having Jikara around and so did the other students,” said Phil Javier, NMIT Associate Director –  Business, Hospitality and Personal Services. “So, we decided that Jikara should also receive a certificate on graduation night.”

“I think she’s (Suzanne) done a fantastic job … being completely blind and taking this on,” said Suzanne’s mother, Phyllis Waghorn.  “But she couldn’t have done it without Jikara and I’ll be making a black cape and dog-sized mortar board for Jikara to wear on graduation night.”

Suzanne, 37, lost her sight due to diabetes 13 years ago, but was determined to forge ahead through further study.

Suzanne is the first blind student to successfully complete the dual diplomas of Remedial Massage and Reflexology at NMIT. Currently she is providing corporate massage services to staff at Vision Australia but is seeking work as a remedial massage therapist.

“I’m working with a Vision Australia employment consultant to explore the options for me to work as a remedial massage therapist. Ideally I would like to work with someone in an established practice where there is existing administrative support.”


Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Coordinator, James Gardener, on 03 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE trades as NMIT and Melbourne Polytechnic across six campuses and six specialist training centres throughout Melbourne’s north and south east plus a regional campus at Ararat. The institute delivers high quality vocational education in industry-standard facilities.

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