< Back to previous page

Scholars gather in Canberra to develop enduring connections at 2023 Scholars Forum

Posted: 24 April 2023

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Experience, In Australia, Inclusion, Linkages, Scholar,

On 12-13 April 2023, 55 Australia Awards scholars from South Asia and Mongolia came together in Canberra for the 2023 Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia Scholars Forum with the theme of Networks for Influence and Impact. They were joined by eight scholars from Timor-Leste and nine from Myanmar.

On the opening day, scholars enjoyed the opportunity to tour Australian Parliament House and experience the First Australians gallery at the National Museum of Australia. Following a Welcome to Country delivered by Ngunnawal Elder Bradley Bell, the attendees built connections with representatives from DFAT and the development sector at a welcome function.

During the second day of the Forum, the Scholars were welcomed by First Assistant Secretary of DFAT’s North and South Asia Division, Gary Cowan, who highlighted the role that the Australia Awards play in deepening relations between Australia and the countries of South Asia and Mongolia.

Scholars and officials pose at the opening of the workshop component of the Scholars Forum at the National Museum of Australia.

Scholars and officials at the opening of the workshop component of the Scholars Forum at the National Museum of Australia.

Elizabeth Wilde, First Assistant Secretary of the Development Policy Division, noted the benefits for scholars of developing connections while in Australia to increase their impact on return to their home countries. She highlighted the examples of Asfia Sultana of Bangladesh, Dr Samitha Samanmali of Sri Lanka and Sonam Pelden Thaye of Bhutan as just three alumni who had used their enduring connections formed while in Australia to support their work.

The event continued with panel discussions which included representatives of DFAT, other government agencies, the development sector and educational institutions sharing their tips on establishing enduring connections.  Following these, the scholars discussed how they would implement what they had learnt and modified their Development Impact and Linkages Plans (DILPs).

Scholars took the opportunity to visit the First Australians gallery at the National Museum of Australia

Scholars took the opportunity to visit the First Australians gallery at the National Museum of Australia.

The scholars were active participants in the Forum by sitting on panels, asking questions, joining discussions and submitting videos outlining how networking would assist them in implementing their Development Impact and Linkages Plan.

Some scholars had the opportunity to meet with the Ambassadors, High Commissioners or other diplomatic representatives of their countries while in Canberra.

Mongolian attendee Solongo Munkhtsengel commented, “The whole event was thought-provoking and mind-expanding in its every sense of detail, meeting fellow scholars, high-calibre officials of the Australian public sector and other representatives from different fields who came with great insightful stories and experiences”.

Indian scholar Jatin Pawar said, “One key takeaway from the conference was the power of meaningful connections. In today’s digital age, building a network that goes beyond superficial connections is essential for making a real impact and exerting influence. It’s not just about the number of connections you have, but the quality of those connections that truly matters.  Another highlight was the importance of diversity in networks. Surrounding oneself with individuals from diverse backgrounds, industries, and perspectives can foster innovation and creativity, leading to more impactful outcomes. It’s crucial to step out of our comfort zones and actively seek out diverse connections to broaden our horizons and expand our network’s impact.”

Panellists on Networking from a Diversity and Inclusion Perspective from left to right: Prof. Maree Meredith, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership, University of Canberra; Rakshya Risal, Australia Awards Scholar, Nepal; Christine Clarke CSC, former Ambassador for Women and Girls; Liz Cowan, Senior Specialist Advisor Gender Equality, DFAT; Nick Schumi, Disability Advocate and Advisor, Maven

wo days at the Scholars Forum left us inspired and energised. From visiting the Royal Bhutanese Embassy to connecting with scholars from diverse educational backgrounds and countries and interacting with visionary leaders at the event, left us with not just valuable insights into the needs of our economies and the power of linkages for magnified impacts but also sparked questions and inspired to reflect on how we can drive impactful change in our economies collectively.”