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Scholar reflections: Mahpara Farrukh

Posted: 12 July 2019

Pakistan, In Australia, Scholar,

Australia Awards scholar Mahpara Farrukh from Pakistan is undertaking a Master of Development Studies at the University of Melbourne, with a focus on social and human development. Before her studies in Australia, she worked in Pakistan’s development sector for 5 years, mainly in the areas of women’s political participation and empowerment.

Mahpara and fellow Pakistani scholar Saima Mazhar recently completed the Leaders in Communities Award (LiCA) from the University of Melbourne. This award encourages and recognises students’ participation in volunteering and extracurricular activities, both on and off the campus.

Mahpara and Saima are strong, passionate women who are committed to making a difference in Pakistan. We spoke to each of them about what the LiCA means to them, their Australia Awards experience, and their future aspirations.

This is Mahpara’s story.

Mahpara’s reflections on LiCA and volunteering with Open Table Australia

“LiCA is a wonderful platform for all students to get their volunteer work recognised. While LiCA encouraged me to continue looking for more volunteer opportunities and professional skills workshops, Open Table Australia gave me the opportunity to engage with the community. The team at Open Table cooks feasts for community members once every month. Then we all sit together and share a meal with community members.

Mahpara with friend and fellow Australia Awards scholar, Saima, preparing a meal to share with community members

“I enjoyed my work with them, and this also gave me a chance to learn some new Australian recipes from my coordinator. It is great to see so many cultures coming together over a meal and sharing their stories. Connecting over a plate of food is one of the best ways to make new friends and networks. The best part of volunteering was that Saima and I had so much fun working together and have wonderful memories of volunteering in Melbourne.”

Learning experiences and making connections

“I love the level of community engagement I see across Australia. We have very close-knit families in Pakistan, and I feel there’s room to transfer this bonding from the family level to the community. I have learnt from my work with Australian initiatives such as Open Table and the Dinner Project, and I look forward to introducing similar community engagement initiatives back home. I would also like to introduce volunteer activities for students in my country, as I believe that volunteering is not only a way of giving back to your community but also a way of improving it. It is also an excellent way to increase youth participation in Pakistan’s development.

“My work in Pakistan focused on women’s political participation and empowerment. I plan to continue this work when I go home and hope to, someday, contribute towards the Australian Government’s aid program in Pakistan. Interacting with professionals and scholars from Australia during my study has helped me understand international development policies and plans. I have made several connections and networks with fellow Australia Awards scholars that will help in creating collaborative efforts towards the development of our countries.

Mahpara (left) will fellow scholar Julekha Nusrat from Bangladesh at Australia Awards Scholars Forum for South and West Asia in Melbourne, April 2019

“Above all, I am so happy that I have made so many new yet lifelong friends in Australia. These are not just Australians but also friends from Indonesia, Philippines, Maldives, Myanmar, Mongolia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and many more. I have loved my stay in Australia and enjoyed meeting people from diverse cultures. I will cherish these connections forever.”

Australia Awards support

“This wonderful journey in Australia would not have been possible without the support, care and guidance from Australia Awards. The team in Pakistan provided us with all the initial support we needed, including visa briefings, pre-departure briefings and more. Without their support, adjusting to Australia would not have been possible. Staff in Australia warmly welcomed us and have arranged networking events for us; these are a great way to engage with scholars from different countries, universities and disciplines.”

Experience in Australia

“What I have experienced in Australia has been incredible.

“It is amazing to see the acceptance and love for other cultures and religions in Australia. Getting everyone together through activities and programs is an excellent way to create a space for people from different cultures and religions to integrate into society. During my time in Australia, I didn’t experience any discrimination against me or my religion.

“I also got the opportunity to do a lot of fun activities during my time in Australia that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to experience. I have been travelling around the country and enjoyed scenic landscapes, Australian food and—most of all—cycling, which unfortunately I cannot do in Pakistan. I love travelling, so the experience in Australia has been simply mind-blowing.

Scholars Mahpara and Saima cycling in Australia

“When I return home, cycling is what I am going to miss the most. I have explored Melbourne more on a bike with my friends than on trams or trains. Saima and I are planning to go skydiving as well, and we are very excited about it.”

About Mahpara

“All that I am today is thanks to my mother. I lost my father at the age of 2, so my mother has also been like a father to me. She has been a great friend and always supported me. When I decided to come to Australia to study, she supported my decision wholeheartedly—even though sending me so far away from home would have been a very difficult decision for her to make.

“When I was studying for my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to be a psychologist, so I enrolled to study Behavioural Sciences. However, when I studied research methodology, I found it interesting, so when I graduated from university my career shifted to social and developmental research. Once I started my career as a report writer for a development project, there was no looking back. I wanted to work for communities and contribute towards social change.

“I look forward to working with more dedication and commitment for the development of my country and to using my Australia Awards connections and networks.”

Click here to read the story of Mahpara’s friend and fellow Australia Awards scholar Saima Mazhar’s experience of volunteering and completing the LiCA.