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Alumni discuss how to lead and inspire meaningful change at the Regional Alumni Workshop

Posted: 29 June 2022

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, Experience, Impact,

Forty-four Australia Awards alumni from South Asia & Mongolia gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal in mid-June for the Regional Alumni Workshop. The theme of the workshop was ‘leading and inspiring meaningful change’.

The three-day workshop welcomed alumni from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, who had the opportunity to share their experiences of leading and inspiring change in their respective countries, sectors, and organisations, showcase their development goals and strengthen their professional networks across the region. The alumni were accompanied by representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Australia Awards.

The participating alumni were selected through a competitive process, with more than 200 alumni submitting applications outlining their development goals for their countries and sectors.

The workshop, held from 13–15 June 2022, was opened by the Australian Ambassador to Nepal, H.E. Felicity Volk, who delivered the welcome address. In her remarks, she emphasised that the challenges brought about by the pandemic – such as shifting to remote work arrangements and adjusting systems for service delivery – had all underscored the importance of leading change.

Australian Ambassador to Nepal H.E. Felicity Volk during the keynote address at RAW.

“In most countries, the worst of the problems caused by COVID may be receding, but as the world takes stock and moves forward, we need leaders who are capable of harnessing the disruptive influences of the pandemic to build back better. We need leaders who can shape and drive the changes required to cement resilience, promote stability and aid in the recovery process,” she said. “It’s fair to say that most human beings struggle with change. So special skills are needed to lead a group of people through change. And we’ve seen those skills on display in spades among our Australia Awards alumni over the past two years.”

She concluded her welcome note by saying

“A distinguishing feature of the Australia Awards is its continued investment in individual development and in building professional and personal networks, well after the conclusion of the study program itself. This workshop is a wonderful opportunity to make the most of this. This is a chance to build enduring networks and communities of practice to support each other, work together and scale up solutions.”

Four alumni were invited to the workshop to deliver keynote speeches on leading and inspiring meaningful change. The first keynote was delivered by Anuk De Silva, a marketing and communications specialist from Sri Lanka on ‘communicating the need for change’. Alum Limia Dewan, who worked as Senior Program Manager in the Inclusiveness and Capacity Development Unit of the BRAC Education Programme in Bangladesh, delivered her keynote on ‘overcoming barriers to change’. Alum and Vice President of the Human Rights Commission in the Maldives, Dr Ahmed Adham Abdulla discussed “maximising your impact” in his keynote. The final keynote was delivered by Australia Awards alum from Pakistan, Raheela Saad, who works as Director General at Pakistan’s National Engineering and Scientific Commission. She shared her views on ‘refreshing your development goals for changing times.’ Each alum shared examples of how they were impacting change in their workplaces and countries.

Alum Limia Dewan, from Bangladesh, delivering her keynote on ‘overcoming barriers to change’

One of the key elements of this year’s workshop was alumni showcasing their development goals and challenges in their sectors, how they were tackling them, and how they would benefit from the support of the Australia Awards’ network. Of the 28 alumni who presented development goals snapshots, 16 alumni were selected to showcase theirs during the workshop. After viewing them all, the attendees then voted for three to discuss in detail, with alumni sharing their ideas on how the presenters could overcome hurdles in their three case studies and increase their impact.

Alum from Pakistan Gouhar Pirzada’s case study was one of the three that the alumni voted for. Sharing his excitement, he said “My development showcase presentation was voted the best one and what was even more exciting was the joint brainstorming session to propose some extremely valuable suggestions that I can work on for the out-of-school working children in Pakistan. Needless to mention, it was inspiring to interact and share the issue with the social sector heroes of the region.”

He went on to say “Since 2017, my learning and development journey with Australia Awards has been truly phenomenal and it has remained inspirational to date. The Regional Alumni Workshop this year in the beautiful city of Kathmandu in Nepal added yet another memorable learning chapter.”

During the workshop the participants also attended a networking reception hosted by Ambassador Volk, who officially launched a new book, ‘A Celebration of Alumni Impact in South Asia’. The book features inspiring stories of Australia Awards alumni from the South Asian region and the significant outcomes they have achieved in recent years.

On the final day of the workshop, the participants had the chance to witness first-hand how two organisations with links to Australia were leading change in Nepal. One group of participants visited Autism Care Nepal Society, the only active autism support organisation in Nepal run by passionate parents that care for people with autism. The participants toured the facility and learnt how her Australia Awards experience assisted founder and alum, Dr Sunita Maleku, to inspire change. The second group visited the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO), where they toured the organisation’s clinics, laboratories and manufacturing facilities, and discussed TIO’s role in improving healthcare services in Nepal and beyond.

RAW participants during the field visit to Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology

About Australia Awards

 Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Short Courses funded by the Australian Government. They offer the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia.

All recipients of Australia Awards become part of the Australia Global Alumni network, connecting them to Australia and to each other—building an engaged and influential global network of leaders and advocates, and establishing a network of ambassadors for Australia and its first-class education system. In the past five years alone, more than 1,000 individuals in South Asia & Mongolia have received Australia Awards Scholarships to study in Australia. In 2022, more than 200 scholars from South Asia & Mongolia are commencing their studies in Australia.