Australia Awards reaps extra rewards

Australia Awards reaps extra rewards

Australia Awards Scholarship alumni’s contribution through their paid service is well documented by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility (GTF), led by ACER. This report is the first detailed study by the GTF that focuses specifically on alumni contributions outside the workforce. It examines alumni contributions to civil society through the lens of volunteerism and community leadership.

This new research uses data from thousands of alumni collected in the GTF’s Global Tracer Survey 2020 to build a broad understanding of alumni leadership within civil society. The GTF selected categories of community leadership identified by the survey and explored these areas in further detail through in-depth interviews with 8 alumni from across the Pacific and Southeast Asia. The data collected shows the diverse ways in which alumni contribute to development through volunteer activities outside of their paid work.

In-depth interviews with alumni found that Australia Awards go beyond providing human resource capacity development within the workforce, to have a wider impact on civil society through alumni voluntary contributions, often at a grassroots, community level. In many cases, this has created a ripple effect, helping to strengthen governance and institutional capacity of local churches, schools, community groups and professional associations through alumni sharing technical expertise to improve practices and train others.

Researchers have found that alumni also help transform social attitudes and behavior within their communities through advocacy and close collaboration with government and other organizations to effect change in areas such as gender equality, disability and social inclusion, education, poverty reduction and environmental protection. .

For example, as the first female cyber security expert in Samoa, Ms Tagiilima Neemia uses her award-winning skills, knowledge and networks developed through the Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) to support female participation in information technology (IT) in Samoa.

(photo) Ms Neemia and participants of the first Samoan Geek Girl Academy. Photo: Vaitogi Asuisui Matafeo of the Samoa Observer.

While receiving an award, she studied a master’s degree in cyber security at RMIT University and connected with women leaders in the Australian IT sector through her WLI mentor, who introduced her to the co-founder of the Geek Girl Academy , Sarah Moran. This led to the establishment of a Geek Girl Academy in Samoa in early 2020 as part of a WLI project to engage six to 12-year-old girls in coding workshops to spark interest in STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ) to increase careers. The workshops were offered free of charge to girls and female family members to help break down gender stereotypes around IT and promote STEM-based careers to Samoan girls.

‘The focus for me was just girls and women because I saw that in Samoa a lot of the ITs are male… I just wanted something to start to get the girls interested in pursuing IT… so that if they interested, they can pursue something along the path of technology. Back then when I started pursuing a degree in IT, there weren’t many [of women in IT] in Samoa.’

This new research shows that at the heart of most volunteering is the desire to help others build a better community. One alum who participated in the research summed up this sentiment, noting a strong motivation to share the benefits of their scholarship with others by ‘paying it forward’.

Alumni in this study clearly expressed how their Australia Awards scholarship influenced the way they contribute back home. There were three main themes:

Changing attitudes – many alumni noted that the transformational experience of an award in Australia embedded a motivation to ‘give back’ and contribute beyond the world of work on return. Networks of Australia – continues to play a strong role in facilitating the contributions of alumni in their communities. This included ongoing connections with on-award mentors and advocacy-based organizations in Australia. Knowledge and skills developed during award – alumni noted that both technical skills specific to the subject of their courses and general skills such as planning are still important in facilitating the way they approach their unpaid work.

Overall, the research shows that alumni of the Australia Awards use the skills, knowledge and networks gained through scholarships and fellowships to contribute to development not only through paid work but also through their volunteer work in civil society .

Find out more:

The Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility is managed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on behalf of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

To read the full report by Jo Doyle and Daniel Edwards, visit the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility webpage.

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