Year in Review 2022

Australia Awards – 
South Asia & Mongolia

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Reconnecting and embracing new opportunities

Emerging from the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia approached 2022 with renewed energy and anticipating fresh opportunities. A significant year for Australia Awards, 2022 saw the first mobilisation of scholars since 2020, the reactivation of in-person engagement, positive outcomes resulting from alumni grants, and new possibilities arising from the merger of Australia Awards – South Asia and Australia Awards – Mongolia.

Gender equality, disability and social inclusion (GEDSI) commitments remained a key focus, including through effective Scholarship promotions and selection activities which resulted in more than half of Australia Awards scholars commencing study in 2022 being women. Five per cent were people with disability.

Scholars were offered a range of linkages opportunities over the year, including activities with a GEDSI focus. New doors were opened in 2022 for scholars, alumni and the broader Program through the merger of the South Asia and Mongolia programs.

Short-term training activities saw the return of in-person delivery models as well as a continuation of online learning—a modality that had been extensively explored and refined during the pandemic. The year saw a busy schedule of Short Courses and Australian Professional Opportunities (APOs), including two multi-country GEDSI-focused APOs.

Australia Awards alumni took advantage of the opportunity to network in-person again while continuing to benefit from online events. Multi-country and country-specific events brought professional development opportunities for alumni, as well as the opportunity to maintain links with Australia and with one another.

Forty-four alumni from across Program countries shared their experiences of implementing change, showcased their development goals and strengthened their professional networks at the Regional Alumni Workshop in Nepal. With the theme of Leading and inspiring meaningful change, the event was also selected as a suitable occasion to launch a high-quality Program publication, Australia Awards: A Celebrationof Alumni Impact in South Asia.

Following the appointment of an Indigenous Engagement Adviser, the Program intensified its focus on First Nations participation and engagement. The Adviser briefed all commencing Scholarship recipients on aspects of First Nations history and culture. It is anticipated that this focus will lead to increased linkages with Indigenous organisations, communities and individuals and deepen the understanding of scholars, alumni and staff in engaging respectfully with First Nations peoples.

Another important area of focus for the year was the environment and climate action, with initiatives including a briefing on climate action for new Scholarship recipients, Climate Change Action Grants in Nepal, and the development of an alumnae-led podcast series, ‘2022 Changing Climates: Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’, featuring seven alumnae describing their work in responding to climate change.

773 professionals from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka benefited from Australia Awards Scholarships, Short Courses or Australian Professional Opportunities

Outcomes at a glance

Alumni use their skills, knowledge and networks to contribute to sustainable development
Among Australia Awards Scholarships alumni surveyed:
100% reported that the skills and knowledge developed through their Scholarship would enable them to contribute to the development of their country
98% believed that their Scholarship had provided them with a good quality education and skills development opportunities
77% provided tangible examples of how they had applied their new knowledge and skills in the workplace
59% had gained career advancement within 3 years of completing their Scholarship, with 91% asserting that Australia Awards made a significant or very significant contribution to this success
Alumni contribute to cooperation between Australia and partner countries
Among Australia Awards Scholarships alumni surveyed:
82% were networked with fellow Australia Awards Alumni. 80% were networked with Australians or Australian institutions.
60% provided tangible examples of contributions to cooperation with Australia.
58% were using the networks they developed to help their workplace partner with people or organisations in Australia
Australia is viewed as a valued international partner
Among Australia Awards Scholarships alumni surveyed: 
100% held positive attitudes towards Australia
100% had a high regard for the skills and experience of Australian people
96% had a high regard for Australian people
Among Australia Awards Short Course Alumni surveyed: 100% of participants were satisfied with their course
The Australia Awards - South Asia & Mongolia websites gained over 197,000 new users
“I am immensely grateful to Australia Awards for providing me the opportunity to access world-class education. I have been impressed by the unique student-centred teaching methods here in Australia, which I believe will enable me to grow both professionally and personally.

“During my time in Australia, I have been able to experience the diversity of a multicultural environment while building networks and impactful connections with people from all over the world. Through enduring relationships, an unparalleled learning experience and endless opportunities, I hope to become a transformational leader for my country’s development.”
– Nelushika Hemachandra (Sri Lanka)
Master of International and Development Economics
Australian National University
commenced 2022

Australia Awards Scholarships

As scholars were mobilised for the first time since 2020, there was a sense of activity, excitement and renewed energy across Program countries in 2022.

In 2022, the last of the scholars who had commenced their studies in Australia in 2020 returned home. Given the hardships inflicted by the pandemic, it is a testament to the resilience of these scholars that 97% of those who commenced in 2020 successfully completed their studies, were awarded their Australian degree and returned home to contribute to their nation’s post-COVID-19 development.

Promotional activities and selection processes continued during the pandemic, leading to a strong cohort of Scholarship recipients awaiting travel to Australia. These scholars-in-waiting remained engaged with the Program and primed for academic study through completing a purpose-designed Australia Awards Short Course in Foundational Skills for Change Agents prior to their mobilisation to Australia.

After much anticipation, 191 new Australia Awards scholars arrived 
in Australia in June. Fifty-three per cent of those who commenced their studies were women, accounting for at least half of the available Scholarships in seven of the eight Program countries. Following targeted promotional efforts, including through partnerships with organisations supporting people with disability, 5% of the Scholarships were awarded to applicants with disability.

Scholars were engaged in a range of enrichment activities over the year, many with an important GEDSI focus. Scholars marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities with Michelle Ryan of Restless Dance, Australia’s leading creator of dance theatre by dancers with and without disability. 

A series of workshops commenced in December across capital cities to support scholars in reviewing and implementing their Development Impact and Linkages Plans and offer training in digital storytelling. This was designed to complement the scholars’ technical knowledge by developing their ability to build networks and use contemporary tools to increase the impact and influence of their communications.

220 scholars undertook studies in Australia
53% of scholars commencing study in Australia were woman, with woman making up 50% or more of the total scholar cohort from seven of the eight Program countries
20 scholars completed their studies, with 95% returning to their home countries
Australia Awards scholars from Maldives on campus in 2022. From left to right: Azhan Mohamed, Aishath Reehaam Haris, Aminath Samaha and Ismail Shariu.
7% of Scholarship recipients in Australia were people with disability
Image: Australia Awards scholars from Maldives on campus in 2022. From left to right: Azhan Mohamed, Aishath Reehaam Haris, Aminath Samaha and Ismail Shariu.
“The challenges and uncertainty of the pandemic may have delayed my plans, but it could not stop my determination to pursue my academic aspirations. Finally commencing my studies in Australia after an 18-month wait felt like a dream come true.

“I have always viewed Australia very highly for its quality education system. I now feel privileged to experience the country’s excellent teaching and learning systems first-hand. My Australian experience is priming me to solve complex real-world problems and meet the demands of current advances in human–computer interaction.”

– Md Tanvir Hossain (Bangladesh)
Master of Machine Learning and Computer Vision
Australian National University
commenced 2022

Short-term training

Short-term training activities in 2022 saw the welcome return of in-person delivery models as well as a continuation of high-quality online learning, broadening the reach of and participation in Short Courses and Australian Professional Opportunities (APOs).

In 2022, 410 participants undertook one of 13 Short Courses. Highlights included:

  • The Short Course in Using Social Media to Counter Radicalism for Bangladeshis was delivered for the fourth time. There is now a Community of Practice of almost 100 alumni from this program who continue working in relevant roles in Bangladesh.
  • Phase 2 of the Short Course in Building Capacity in Vocational Training and Assessment for Nepal was completed in-person towards the end of 2022, with participants demonstrating a strong commitment to the course, overcoming extended delays due to COVID-19.
  • The online Regional Short Course in Foundational Skills for Change Agents, designed to prepare scholars-in-waiting for study in Australia, was completed by 189 participants from across South Asia and Mongolia.
  • The Regional Short Course in Governing in the Digital Age involved 23 participants from seven Program countries undertaking a three-week program on producing, analysing and using data to inform policy decisions.
  • Twenty Mongolian professionals participated in the Short Course on Women in Agriculture, receiving training on how to identify and implement policies to aid women in the agriculture sector.

The Program delivered 13 APOs in 2022, supporting a total of 143 recipients. Highlights included:

  • Seventeen delegates from Bangladesh undertook an Urban Food Security study tour to Melbourne—an activity delivered through a partnership between the Australian High Commission, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Dhaka, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • Two iterations of a five-part webinar series on Building Capacity in Social Media for Small Scale Enterprises were delivered to Sri Lankan, Maldivian and Nepali participants.
  • Twenty-five high school teachers in Bhutan learnt
    how to deliver online and blended learning through contemporary pedagogies and cutting-edge digital tools.
  • In December 2022, arrangements were made to support two Australian Indigenous storytellers, Yvette Henry Holt and Graham Akhurst, to attend the Dhaka Lit Fest to deliver a workshop for indigenous Bangladeshi writers, artists and Australia Awards alumni in January 2023.

Additionally, two multi-country, GEDSI-focused APOs were also delivered.

13 Short Courses were delivered or partially delivered
54% of Short Course participants were woman
553 professionals participated in Short Courses (410) and Australian Professionals Opportunities (143) across a broad range of fields aligned to country priorities
13 Australian Professional Opportunities were delivered
71% of Australian Professional Opportunity participants were woman
“My Australia Awards Scholarship has already provided invaluable experiences in developing my personal and professional networks in Australia. To date, I have established professional linkages with several environment-related organisations. Opportunities to develop further networks were presented to me when accompanying Nepalese delegates for a formal bilateral discussion with CSIRO and the Australian Government, in support of an Australian Professional Opportunity.

“The highlight of my experience in Australia so far has been working as an intern for six weeks at Thamarrurr Rangers, Wadeye, Northern Territory, with Traditional Owners.”

– Hemraj Shahi (Nepal)
Master of Forestry
Australian National University
commenced 2022

Advancing women’s empowerment through Australian Professional Opportunities

Two significant multi-country Australian Professional Opportunities supported 38 women leaders with valuable learning and networking opportunities. Australia Awards works with local and international organisations to provide Australian Professional Opportunities (APOs) to participants from Program countries. APOs are short-term professional development activities offering valuable learning and networking, funded by the Australian Government to support leaders from priority sectors.

Image: Australia Awards scholars on campus in Melbourne in 2022.
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“I am grateful and impressed that Australia Awards not only focused on providing me with a world-class education but also ensured my wellbeing by allowing me to return home during difficult times of the pandemic.

“I’m so pleased to be an Australia Awards alumna. I feel proud to be associated with a program that is not only highly prestigious but is also considerate and compassionate.”

– Bolorchimeg Jargalsaikhan (Mongolia)
Master of Public Policy and Management
University of Melbourne, 2022

Alumni engagement

Following two years of COVID-related disruptions, in 2022 Australia Awards alumni relished the opportunity to network in-person while continuing to benefit from online events.

Across the year, over 1,800 alumni attended 34 regional, multi- country or country-level events, assisting them to maintain their links with Australia and with each other. Highlights included:

  • the Regional Alumni Workshop held in Kathmandu
  • a We Love Australia function in Mongolia attended by 250 people to celebrate the contribution of alumni to Australia–Mongolia ties, with 2022 marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries
  • a webinar series aligned to United Nations days of significance featuring Australian experts and hosted by the Australia Awards – Bangladesh team
  • a clean-up campaign in Bhutan to coincide with World Environment Day in collaboration with four Royal University of Bhutan colleges and Royal Thimphu College
  • a mini trade display at the closing ceremony of the Women Trading Globally Short Course which allowed the new Sri Lankan alumni from the course to showcase their businesses or products
  • a lecture delivered by Australian public health expert Professor Rob Moodie for alumni in Nepal.

In 2022, alum
ni made a strong contribution to gender equality, disability and social inclusion (GEDSI) initiatives:

  • in its first year of operation, the Alumni Disability Advisory Group promoted greater inclusion within Australia Awards by examining barriers to participation by people with disability
  • the Bhutan Alumni Association marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities with the Wansgel Institute for the Deaf
  • seven alumnae participated in a three-part podcast series released for International Women’s Day (IWD) on the theme Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow
  • an alumni expert panel discussion to mark IWD was hosted by the Australia Awards – Nepal team
  • Australian alumni in Mongolia commenced the ninth cohort of the Women’s Leadership Program, which enhances participants’ leadership skills and understanding of gender equality
  • alumni grants were provided to eight projects designed to establish communities of practice to support GEDSI in Bangladesh
  • alumni donated books and essential library furniture to schools in a disadvantaged province in Sri Lanka
  • alumnae from Sri Lanka and Maldives served as panellists at an Australia Awards Regional GEDSI Leadership Summit.

To recognise alumni achievements, the Program produced Australia Awards: A Celebration of Alumni Impact in South Asia, a coffee-table book with high-quality imagery and engaging stories describing the differences alumni are making in their communities. The book was launched on 14 June by H.E. Felicity Volk, Australian Ambassador to Nepal.

Over 1800 alumni attended one of the 34 country-level alumni engagement events
Alumna Rajuna Singh (Nepal) as featured in the publication, Australia Awards: A Celebration of Alumni Impact in South Asia. Rajuna is a role model in Nepal’s disability community and is a member of the Program’s Alumni Disability Advisory Group.
Image: Alumna Rajuna Singh (Nepal) as featured in the publication, Australia Awards: A Celebration of Alumni Impact in South Asia. Rajuna is a role model in Nepal’s disability community and is a member of the Program’s Alumni Disability Advisory Group.
“I feel humbled and honoured to have studied in Australia on an Australia Awards Scholarship. My postgraduate studies played a pivotal role in shaping my career and personal growth. Along the way, I had the privilege of making invaluable connections with remarkable individuals who have continued to inspire and support me.

“The experiences and opportunities provided by Australia Awards have profoundly impacted my skills and sense of purpose and I believe they will continue to do so in the future. Undoubtedly, this Scholarship has represented a crucial milestone in my journey towards achieving my goals. I am appreciative of every opportunity presented to me by Australia Awards, both as a scholar and now as an alumnus.”

– Nimrat Singh Brar (India)
Master of Advanced Engineering
Monash University, 2021

Grants for recovery

To respond to the pandemic, since 2020 Australia Awards has offered small grants to alumni for projects aligned with priorities identified in the Australian Government’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response framework. These grants created opportunities for alumni to contribute to pandemic recovery and sustainable development in their communities, focusing particularly on economic recovery, health security and stability.

Image: Australia Awards alumnus Syed Sadhli Ahmed Roomy from Bangladesh.
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“Having been out of an academic setting for close to five years, participating in the Foundational Skills for Change Agents Short Course not only provided me with a platform to interact and network with other Australia Awards recipients from the region but also acquainted me with Australian university systems and helped me in setting my expectations even before coming to Australia. This made transitioning and adapting to a new environment much easier upon commencing my studies."

– Chimi Dema (Bhutan)
Master of Economics
Australian National University
commenced 2022

Leading and inspiring meaningful change

Forty-four Australia Awards alumni from South Asia and Mongolia gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 13–15 June for 2022’s Regional Alumni Workshop, which had the theme of Leading and inspiring meaningful change. Alumni from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka shared their experiences of leading change, showcased their development goals and strengthened their professional networks.

Image: Australia Awards alumnus from India, Lakshay Jain, at the Regional Alumni Workshop.
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“My studies in Australia are preparing me well for my return to Maldives, where I hope to have a positive impact on sustainable development and energy use. I believe the studies I am undertaking will help me cultivate a different approach to finding resilient and viable solutions to reduce the climate impact from the construction industry.

“Along with learning the management of sustainable projects, my study program is helping me understand the policies that must be implemented to close the gap and ensure a less damaging built environment in Maldives.”

– Aminath Samaha (Maldives)
Master of Energy Efficient and
Sustainable Building
RMIT University
commenced 2022

About the Program

For more than 70 years, the Australian Government has proudly supported emerging leaders from developing countries in accessing a high-quality education and life experience in Australia. Today’s key delivery mechanism for providing this support is Australia Awards.

Australia Awards are a central pillar of Australia’s investment in people-to-people links with its partner nations—enhancing mutual understanding, cooperation, growth and stability in our region. Australia Awards equip recipients with the skills, knowledge and networks to drive change and contribute to the economic and social development of their own communities and nations.

Key objectives for Australia Awards are the empowerment of women and the inclusion of people with disability and individuals from traditionally marginalised groups. 

In 2022, Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia offered opportunities to eligible nationals of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Through a range of modalities—including Australia Awards Scholarships, targeted Australia Awards Short Courses, Australian Professional Opportunities, and professional development and support for alumni—the Program aims to:

  • develop capacity and leadership skills to enable individuals to contribute to development in their home country
  • build people-to-people linkages at the individual, institutional and country levels
  • support Australia’s public and economic diplomacy agenda.

Recipients of Australia Awards become part of the Australia Global Alumni network, connecting them to Australia and to each other—building a global network of leaders and advocates and establishing a network of ambassadors for Australia and its first-class education system.

South Asia & Mongolia
“My experience in Australia gave me a fresh perspective on life, including on how to approach and embrace diversity.

“I enjoyed finding my own path as a student and resident of Melbourne. Melbourne’s excellent public transport system, friendly people and the university’s strong support network have made my journey smooth, exciting and memorable.”

– Amna Ijaz (Pakistan)
Master of Educational Leadership
Monash University
commenced 2022