Having scholars placed at tertiary institutions across the country, Australia Awards – Africa allows students to not only develop their technical knowledge through its postgraduate courses, but also to attain leadership and networking skills through extracurricular activities. These activities include membership in an academic or professional association, networking opportunities and volunteer work.
Proactively seeking such opportunities, three Brisbane-based Awardees attended the Young Women’s Forum held in May 2014. These included University of Queensland (UQ) students Liya Abebe from Ethiopia and Lungisile Masinga from South Africa, as well as Griffith University student Mpho Selebalo, also from South Africa. The Forum was hosted by the National Council of Women Queensland, a peak body for women’s associations around Australia.
Awardees attending the Forum benefitted greatly from the contributions of guest speakers such as Kathryn Harries, Learning and Knowledge Manager for the Australian Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund, and Cara Marshall from the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Days for Girls, an organisation promoting sustainable sanitary products for females in developing countries.
Lungisile, who studies Public Health, recognised the event’s relevance to her studies and professional development. “It was a great experience, especially to see that women in Australia are willing to travel the world to help other women in need. The workshop made me reflect on my experience as it was connected to my studies and profession,” she said.
For Mpho, who also studies Public Health and whose research thesis focuses on hygiene for communities in South Africa, networking with Cara and Kathy was an invaluable experience.
In addition to networking opportunities such as the Young Women’s Forum, Awardees are encouraged to join an academic or professional association through their university or community as a way to further develop links with Australia while gaining skills and knowledge beyond their academic studies. This is an on-Award experience that Mpho and Liya have made the most of during 2014.
Liya, who completed a Masters of Agribusiness, serves as General-Secretary of the UQ Gatton Students Association. She is grateful for this opportunity that allowed her to further develop her leadership skills.
“A lesson I have learned, especially coming from a developing country, is that leadership in any venture is not a matter of size, but more about commitment and having the vision and positive attitude to change. This is the role I hope to play on return”, explains Liya.
Outside of her Master of Public Health at Griffith University, Mpho has been volunteering with the Queensland Leukaemia Foundation and the Cerebral Palsy League. This opportunity has offered another avenue to gain leadership and communication skills that she can apply upon returning to South Africa in her role of Health Worker.
By taking advantage of extracurricular activities, Awardees such as Mpho, Liya and Lungisile stand to benefit fully from their experience in Australia well beyond their academic studies. Building closer bonds and professional links with Australia, gaining soft skills such as leadership and communications, and learning from practical experiences through professional attachments or volunteer work, are just a few of the many benefits that spin off from such opportunities.