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Road to success for garbo turned law student

After a decade behind the wheel, Deacon Johnston is putting the brakes on his driving career.

Instead, the 32-year-old garbage truck driver from Mount Cotton is hitting the books rather than the road, and studying a law degree at the University of Southern Queensland.

It has been a somewhat bumpy journey for Deacon who is currently juggling fatherhood, a job and his study load.

“Throughout high school, I thought I’d be a professional footy player if I’m honest—so I never bothered much with studying,” Deacon said.

More than ten years since graduating high school with a less than stellar OP/ATAR score, Deacon believed university was never an option.

Until he heard about the University of Southern Queensland’s Tertiary Preparation Program.

The Tertiary Preparation Program was designed for people like Deacon, who either have not completed Year 12 or completed it many years ago, as a bridging course into university.

Unlike other pathway programs, the Tertiary Preparation Program is free and available to everyone (as long as you are at least 18 in the year you begin your studies and meet the citizenship and residency requirements).

“I realised when I was around 28-years-old that I needed a change, because driving was becoming monotonous,” said Deacon.

“Mum told me when I was young that she didn’t care if I was a garbo or a lawyer, so I decided to do both.

“With my oldest daughter, Ava, starting her 12 years of school, I figured I could go through a few myself—so here I am.

“Now I have another, Lola, who is 8-months-old.

“With my wife, Carmel, and the girls to motivate me, I feel I can push through any challenge.”

After completing the Tertiary Preparation Program, Deacon enrolled in a Bachelor of Laws.

He has nearly completed nine semesters, and is achieving top grades.

Deacon is not alone in his move to switch careers.

According to a new research by the ING Group, more than three million Aussies are rethinking their career paths due to the impact of Coronavirus.

Tertiary Preparation Program Lecturer, Associate Professor Marcus Harmes, said pandemics often spark cultural and labour changes.

“Like the Spanish Flu in Australia 100 years ago, we’re seeing a shift in the way people want to work,” Associate Professor Harmes said.

“One of the best ways to shore up our futures is to build our skills; the more skills we have, the more prepared we are for the changing world.

“The Tertiary Preparation Program is about giving everyone – no matter their situation – a helping hand on the journey to university study.

“I had the privilege of teaching Deacon in both the Tertiary Program and in his Law Degree.

“I remember discussing 19th century navigation law with him, me in my office and him in the cabin of his truck – it shows study works no matter where you are.”

Once students successfully complete the Tertiary Preparation Program, the University will help them apply directly to an undergraduate degree, as part of the Pathways program.

Applications are now open for a July intake for the Pathways program.

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man smiling in front of truck
Deacon Johnston is putting the brakes on his driving career – completing the Tertiary Preparation Program at USQ.