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Alumni from South and West Asia share their Australia Awards experience

Posted: 2 April 2020

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

We frequently hear about and share the success stories of our alumni. With more than 120 alumni stories and reflections on our website story library, and plenty of events celebrating and supporting these successes, we aren’t short of an inspiring story. 

We recently gathered more of these insights through an activity in which we heard from a diverse range of alumni with a variety of stories to share. Highlights of their Australia Awards experiences ranged from academic achievements and community development to extracurricular engagements. 


Australia Awards alumna Rokeya Khaton, from Bangladesh, completed her Master in Public Administration from Flinders University in 2016. While in Australia, she involved herself in extracurricular activities at the university. She felt that this experience made her a more confident professional.

“My Australian education equipped me with the required skills to grow professionally,” she says. “It built my confidence and helped me realise my full potential. During my studies, I got involved in my university’s extracurricular programs on leadership, volunteering and language skills. In recognition of my achievements in these programs, I received a Silver Award in 2015 and a Gold Award in 2016 from Flinders University. I am forever grateful to Australia Awards for giving me this opportunity.”

Australia Awards alumna Rokeya Khaton from Bangladesh

Mujahid Abdulla, an HR Executive and Scout Leader from the Maldives, completed his Bachelor of Human Resource Management from the University of Canberra in 2016. Australia Awards played an important role in helping Mujahid build his career and volunteering experience.

“Receiving an Australia Awards Scholarship has been a life-changing opportunity for me,” he says. “I was a three-time recipient of the Dean’s Excellence Award at the University of Canberra, making me very proud of my academic achievements.”

Mujahid looks back fondly on his Scholarship experience. “To this day, I cherish the memories I made in Australia. I loved the diversity and the natural beauty this wonderful country had to offer,” he says. “While living there, I continued my scout leadership and volunteering work, giving me a renewed purpose and a second family. It was a great coping mechanism [to take my mind off my homesickness] that also enhanced my skills through camping and hiking adventures. I employ these skills often as a Scout Leader in the Maldives.”

Baman Kumar Ghimire from Nepal benefited from a professional development opportunity at Adelaide Secondary School of English in 2014 during his Australia Awards Scholarship, helping him give back to his community in Nepal.

“The Adelaide Secondary School of English, where I was working, launched a volunteering initiative called the ‘Run-With-Bottles-Week’, collecting empty bottles and sending them for recycling in exchange for the refundable 10¢ deposit on each,” he explains. “The money collected helped me provide stationery to almost 200 underprivileged children in rural Nepal. This story of volunteerism in Australia further inspired my students in Nepal to start an initiative called ‘Birthday Bank’ that has, so far, helped almost 1500 underprivileged children from rural areas. I thank the Australian Government and the people of Australia for helping me contribute towards this important work in my country, and I encourage others to apply for this Scholarship.”

Australia Awards alumnus Baman Kumar Ghimire from Nepal

Alumni also highlighted how their Australia Awards experience has contributed to the strengthening of institutional links between their countries and Australia.

“My Australia Awards Scholarship has brought a paradigm shift in my teaching outlook and perspective,” says Sonam Choden, an Australia Awards alumna from Bhutan, who completed a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language from Flinders University in 2015. “The knowledge I gained in Australia has helped me ingrain higher quality standards in the education system in Bhutan. I believe that if more Bhutanese teachers were to use this platform, they would help raise the overall standard of education in the country. In 2017, I wrote an article, ‘Bedrock of a Sustainable Relationship’, which was published to mark 15 years of Bhutan–Australia diplomatic relations. The article is a testament of my gratitude to the Australian Government for providing me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Australia Awards alumna Sonam Choden from Bhutan

Finally, alumni are applying the knowledge and skills they gained from their Scholarships to make meaningful development contributions at home.

Sampath Nissanka from Sri Lanka completed a Master in Business (Major in International Tourism and Hospitality Management) from Griffith University in 2017. “Australia Awards is a perfect opportunity to allow ambitious professionals like me to have a large impact on our country’s development,” he says.

“My education equipped me with the required skills to identify critical gaps that existed in the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. After my return from Australia, I joined the Uva Provincial Ministry of Tourism, working as the Head of the Uva Tourism Promotion Unit. The Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka in 2019 had a significant effect on Sri Lankan tourism. As the relevant ministry, we organised several promotional campaigns. With thanks to Australia Awards, I implemented my new skills and experience, resulting in the success of our initiatives.”

Australia Awards alumnus Sampath Nissanka from Sri Lanka

Zofeen Ebrahim, a journalist from Pakistan, attended a Short Course on Women in Executive Leadership Development at the University of Queensland in 2019.

Talking about her experience, she says, “It was amazing how I crossed half the world to meet some two dozen remarkable women from Pakistan doing extraordinary work in their respective fields. The course helped us realise our true potential by identifying our weaknesses and strengths as women leaders. But more precisely it made us realise that we are important people and our work matters. We may not be able to bring about a change instantly, but the journey has begun. It is now our job to work towards that gender equality change in Pakistan. Australia Awards was able to provide us with that realisation, for which I am grateful.”

Australia Awards alumna Zofeen Ebrahim from Pakistan

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 1000 individuals in South and West Asia have received Australia Awards Scholarships to study in Australia.

If these stories have inspired you and you would also like to experience a world-class education and make a difference in your country and beyond, apply now.
Australia Awards Scholarships for study commencing in 2021 are now open and will close on 30 June.

Want to learn more about the Australia Awards experiences of alumni? Visit our story library