Amrita Kharel was a recipient of Swinburne's Welcome Scholarship in 2017

Bob Laidlaw

Bob Laidlaw is an inspirational Swinburne student who survived four strokes and now volunteers tirelessly, giving back to his community. His community work and dedication to his course were acknowledged in 2017 with the Swinburne Rotary Community Service Award. You can support students like Bob by making a donation.

Bob worked in construction for most of his life, until the long hours and lack of work-life balance resulted in a major stroke.

“I was told I probably would not survive, but with a lot of rehabilitation I am now able to walk, drive and study. I credit my recovery to not only the wonderful staff at Eastern Health but also my wife Anne and family,” says Bob.

Unable to go back to work, Bob decided to focus on giving back to the community. Initially he volunteered with Eastern Health and then broadened his work to the Peter James Rehab Hospital, Box Hill, Maroondah Hospital, Swinburne, as well as EFL (incorporating East Ringwood and Ringwood) where he was team manager and canteen volunteer.

This award has meant the world to me. To be recognised and acknowledged in this way has had such a tremendous impact on my self-esteem. My wife loves showing off the framed award to our friends and neighbours.

He has become a sort of motivational speaker, although he himself hates the term and does not identify with it.

“I go into hospitals and meet with staff and patients and share my experiences. I now also talk to Swinburne nursing students. If people understand about what stroke victims go through, they are better able to deal with it, and provide the right support.”

Bob is an active member of his local sporting community. He coaches, mentors basketball coaches and also volunteers at Ringwood Football Club.

In 2014, Bob decided he wanted to upskill and take on a Certificate IV in Community Services.

“Most people want to study because they are looking to find a job, but I am not sure if I will ever be able to work again. I am just looking to learn and improve in my volunteering roles,” says Bob.

Bob chose Swinburne's Wantirna campus because, “it has the right course, is conveniently located, and because it is a ‘fair dinkum’ kind of institution.”

Bob suffered three more strokes while studying his certificate. It has meant he can only drive short distances, but he still makes it out on campus and to his volunteering jobs, without fail.

In 2016 Bob decided to further his studies undertaking a Diploma of Community Services.

Sophie Holloway, one of the AccessAbility Advisers at Wantirna, saw what an inspiration Bob was, and put together his application for the Swinburne Rotary Community Service Award. Established by The Rotary Club of Camberwell, the award recognises individuals with links to Swinburne for their exemplary community service, personal volunteer efforts, and active involvement in helping others.

“Bob is one of the most inspiring students at Swinburne. He wants to learn and is so dedicated. Sometimes we have to tell him to slow down, but he just persists,” says Sophie.

Bob himself feels extremely grateful and humbled by the whole experience.

“This award has meant the world to me. To be recognised and acknowledged in this way has had such a tremendous impact on my self-esteem. My wife loves showing off the framed award to our friends and neighbours."

Although he would return to work in a heartbeat, he views his chances as rather low. Instead he is aspiring to continue his volunteer work and take on further studies after his Diploma.

Find out more about supporting students like Bob through student prizes or student achievement awards.

Photo: Bob Laidlaw, receipient of the 2017 Swinburne Rotary Community Service Award

Bob Laidlaw, recipient of 2016 Swinburne Rotary Community Service Award

This award has meant the world to me. To be recognised and acknowledged in this way has had such a tremendous impact on my self-esteem.

Bob Laidlaw, recipient of 2016 Swinburne Rotary Community Service Award