Alan Mackenzie (1927–2003) overcame great odds to attend university.
A spinal tumour paralysed Alan when he was 13, but he survived and eventually completed a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Social Work at the University of Melbourne, followed by a 20-year social work and mental health research career.
University would have been impossible without wife Jean’s financial and emotional support – she was a nurse who paid his tuition at a time when scholarships were scarce.
Jean’s niece, Pam Yen, fondly remembers her aunt and uncle, who were determined to support future students. Part of their estate established the Jean and Alan Mackenzie Bursaries, which enhances the academic and social experience of students with disabilities.
“Jean and Alan were extremely grateful for the opportunities Alan received through study, so together they wanted to leave a legacy that assists others to have a full and enriching student experience.”
Melbourne Law School student Ali Al Ebrahimi is a current recipient. His family fled Iraq when he was four, making a treacherous and harrowing journey to Australia.
“I remember the chaos of the last days in Baghdad and my grandfather’s insistence that we flee,” Ali says.
“We were processed through Christmas Island, then spent several years making it to Melbourne, where I only started school in Year 4.”
Like Alan McKenzie, Ali faces ongoing challenges to succeed. University would be impossible without financial support.
“My family rely on me for support and, before I studied, I was working on average 45 hours per week as a supermarket duty manager.”
The Mackenzie Bursary grants previously unobtainable academic and professional freedom.
“Now I can pursue my dream to become a commercial lawyer and help others through work at community legal centres,” Ali says.
“This summer, I will work at the Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria, giving something back by assisting refugees and low socio-economic clients.”
Ali stresses how vital bursaries and scholarships are to students in need.
“If Alan were here today, I would say thank you because his support changed my life and will determine my future.”
Banner Image: Alan MacKenzie (left) and Ali Al Ebrahimi at his Bachelor of Commerce graduation.