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Taking same Rhodes to the top

AN EDUCATION opportunity rather than a good resumé addition is how most WA Rhodes Scholars view their time at Oxford.

Aron Chakera is the latest to join the group of 94 Western Australians who have won Rhodes Scholarships since they were first offered in 1904.

Dr Chakera, a neurosurgery resident at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, will study a Doctorate of Philosophy in microbiology.

He wants to research the application of gene therapy to cardiovascular disease. It was Dr Chakera’s second try at the Rhodes Scholarship

Nicholas Gill has been recommended for the Rhodes Scholarship for Australia.

Each year the Rhodes Trust offers nine scholarships in Australia – one from each state and three additional – providing fully paid postgraduate tuition at Oxford University.

The Rhodes Scholarships were created under the will of British colonial pioneer and statesman Cecil John Rhodes who died in 1902.

Scholarship selection criteria are based on the qualities Mr Rhodes chose, including proven intellectual and academic ability, integrity of character and “courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship”.

They must also have the ability to lead and the energy to use their talents to the full.

Present and former national leaders have won Rhodes Scholarships including US President Bill Clinton, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pakistan Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad and former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Other Rhodes Scholarship winning Australian political leaders include Federal Labor Leader Kim Beazley, Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams and former Liberal Senator Peter Durack.

Former chief justice David Malcom was also a WA Rhodes Scholar.

WA Labor Leader Geoff Gallop won his Rhodes Scholarship in 1972.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to study at a world-class university,” Dr Gallop said.

“Its daily lecture program is phenomenal. You have access to the best scholars from around the world.”

Dr Gallop completed his undergraduate degree in economics at Oxford before studying a Masters of Philosophy.

His Oxford fellows included WA Rhodes Scholars such as Rod Eddington, David Bean, Mike Fitzpatrick and Carol Devitt.

Dr Gallop also built a friendship with Mr Blair during his Oxford time.

Mr Eddington – then a physicist – built a career in the airlines. After spending time with Cathay Pacific and heading Ansett Airlines, he was appointed head of British Airways.

Mr Fitzpatrick made it his duty to organise the annual Australian Rules football matches between Oxford and Cambridge.

The former Carlton premiership captain and Subiaco ruckman is a director of Hastings Investments, which has an ownership stake in Colonial Stadium.

Mr Bean is a teacher at Hale School.

Mrs Devitt was the first female Rhodes Scholar from WA.

“It was an incredible privilege, a great honour,” she said.

“The one-on-one tutorial system at Oxford is the best there is.

“As a tertiary student I thought it was the perfect environment. Any political interest you had you could follow. Any sporting interest you had you could follow.”

Mrs Devitt said her Rhodes Scholarship did not mean too much when she first returned to WA because she and her husband concentrated on building up the Ashbrook Estate winery in the South West.

“Later on it was quite handy to have on the CV,” Mrs Devitt said.

She said the multicultural aspects of Oxford were incredible.

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