In a perfect world Natalie Pejcinovic would have graduated from the University of Wollongong along with her colleagues yesterday.
Instead, her four siblings took to the stage in the university hall to accept the Bachelor of Medical and Radiation Physics on behalf of their beloved sister who died in a car crash in Croatia in July.
The 20-year-old Mt Pleasant woman was killed along with her grandfather Anto Pavlic-Sahin in an accident near the city of Dubrovnik. Her sister Stephanie received minor injuries.
Yesterday Stephanie and her older brother Phillip, and two younger siblings Christopher and Kristina accepted Natalie's degree posthumously while parents Kathy and Stan looked on.
It was a bitter-sweet moment for the family who had planned to celebrate the graduation with their beautiful daughter, before her wedding which was planned for February.
"I'm very proud today - and very sad," Mrs Pejcinovic said. "But I am grateful to the university, and particularly to the Centre for Medical and Radiation Physics, for everything they've done and the support they've given us.
"Natalie was a very studious person and a very nice person and put a lot of hard work into her studies which we saw on a day-to-day basis, and it's wonderful the university has recognised that too and we are happy about that.
"The support from the wider community has been overwhelming too."
Mr Pejcinovic was overcome with emotion before the graduation ceremony, but said: "It's a very special day".
It was one of two posthumous awards handed out at the Faculty of Engineering graduation ceremony yesterday morning.
Some 3300 students will graduate during the summer graduation season which continues today, and concludes Tuesday - with a weekend break. Thirteen ceremonies will be held, including three night-time sessions.
Pictured: Natalie’s family – brother Phillip, parents Stan and Kathy, sister Stephanie, and younger siblings Kristina and Christopher – were at the University of Wollongong yesterday to receive her posthumous degree. Photo:GREG TOTMAN