Australia Awards hosted a series of welcome functions in six capital cities across Australia for over 500 commencing and continuing African recipients of development scholarships. The four-hour welcome functions were held between 14 February and 1 March, at universities in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, and were attended by dignitaries from African countries, members of local African community associations, and representatives of the Australian Government.
Commencing Awardees attended a closed session at the beginning of the function, where they were guided through their Work Plan on Return and provided with information about academic, professional and social networks available in their cities.
“This Australian Government Scholarship was and will remain a turning point in my life, the community I serve and my entire country, Uganda,” said James Asiimwe, who is currently studying the Masters of International Development at the University of Canberra and is the founder of the KAVC Foundation, focusing on providing assistance to vulnerable communities in Uganda. In addition to increased knowledge, I have prepared myself to build strong networks and to physically mobilise, speak and promote the KAVC Foundation for the sake of the vulnerable people we serve.”
Lisa Rauter, Assistant Director-General, African Branch, officially opened the Canberra Welcome Function and reiterated the purpose of the Australia Awards.
“Australia Awards equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to drive change and influence policy back home. Through each and every one of you, your nations are building their long-term capacity to plan for and implement reform and meet their development challenges, particularly to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals,” said Lisa.
She emphasised the importance of Awardees building enduring personal and professional relationships during their time in Australia. “These connections with academics, colleagues, housemates … will stand the test of time and become valuable assets for you as you negotiate your journey here in Australia, but also once you return home,” she said.
Awardees said they were grateful for the opportunity to establish connections with existing Awardees so early into their award, and to build networks with local African community associations, as well as members of the broader academic community who have an interest in engaging with Africa.