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No Mr Abbott, it is not an odd thing to do

By Nadine Cresswell-Myatt - posted Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A few months ago I read an ABC Radio National transcript stating if Muyran Sukumaran "lives until the end of 2015, he will complete his bachelor of fine arts through Monash University."

This seemed unjust. Education changes lives and here was someone trying to improve his life and those of the other prisoners around him. It wasn't his fault he couldn't finish that degree. All his yearning, striving and ambitions were about to be shot to pieces.

It rung a particular chord as Monash was my alma mater. I treasured my own education and so began my own round of emails.


My argument was that the university should get that degree through for this young man. Surely somewhere in all his years of artistic practice and setting up art classes for Kerobokan prisoners, his entry of a painting into the Archibald Prize there had to be some grounds for exemptions.

Further research revealed the ABC reporter had confused the names of universities. Muyran had actually studied through Curtin University in Western Australia.

Here was an institution with a heart. They were already looking into what they could do.

They moved quickly and found ways to get forms through to Muyran in Kerobokan Jail, without waiting for the slow and unreliable mail system, for without his official signature they could not access educational records needed to complete the paperwork.

Everything was above board but done with some expediency given the nature of the situation. Those with a keen eye will also note that the accomplishment was an Associate Degree not a full degree therefore recognising his studies to date rather than studies he would never be allowed to complete.

The week before the execution I happened to be standing in a queue next to a Curtin educator who told me. "Curtin received a lot of praise for getting that degree through but also a great deal of flack."


One can only hope that since the execution on the 27th April detractors have changed their tune. Half of Australia thought that Indonesia would never be so heartless as to shoot those young men. Now we know differently and it was important to get that degree conferred and in a hurry.

Not simply for Muyran to offer him an important milestone in a young man's life but for his family. As Ben Quilty, Myuran's friend and mentor wrote in the lead up to the execution: "Myu's mum, Raji, is worried that the pressure of an imminent firing squad will prevent Myu finishing his degree this year. She has worried more in the past 10 years than most mothers worry in a lifetime."

Australian Catholic University (ACU) has also just stepped out into the public arena announcing it will introduce a scholarship in memory of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukurman. The scholarship commemorates the two men but does not name it after them. Instead they are called the Mercy Scholarships for as Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven says it is named "after the quality so desperately denied Chan and Sukumaran."

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About the Author

Nadine Cresswell is a writer and teacher and is completing a PhD at the University of Melbourne.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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