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2020 Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework) Awards

From global finance and economic development to encouraging research in education to advancing the rights of women and girls, the winners in the 2020 Postgraduate (Coursework) category are challenging gender biases and inspiring opportunities in their homelands and beyond. We invited them to share their stories.

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Winner: Rubayat Sarwar from Bangladesh

Studying: Master of Business (Finance) at Flinders University

Though Rubayat says where she comes from some see girls’ education as a burden, she’s challenged this view by achieving outstanding academic results. Now, Rubayat is following her natural abilities in mathematics and analytics towards a finance career that can impact the economic development of her country, and perhaps the world. Rubayat believes education is critical and uses her love and talent for art and music to find peace and space as she works toward her academic and career goals.

Tell us how you’ve achieved your education and how you inspire girls to learn?

I come from a background where girls’ education can be seen as a burden. However, from an early age, I felt mathematics and analytics were my strengths. I always felt an inspiration to move forward, and my teachers helped me a lot because they too saw my strengths. I completed my secondary schooling with the highest GPA and studied textile engineering at university.  My parents and my husband have a lot of determination and support for me. I inspire girls by being an icon in my surroundings. My cousins and my friends feel motivation from me, and I always want to help people to achieve in their education.

Why have you chosen to study finance?

After my bachelor’s degree, I took a dream job at the Central Bank of Bangladesh to work with the national economy. Having an engineering degree, I had enhanced analytical capacity. But to contribute more to financial decision making and get a sound understanding of economics, I decided to study finance. I received an Australia Awards Scholarship which brought me to Adelaide. My study in Adelaide will help my professional development and also help me contribute to the sustainable economic development of my country.

You’re an artist, musician and singer. What role does art play in your life?

I brought my traditional instrument, the harmonium, with me from Bangladesh. It took almost 13kg of baggage allowance, so I had to sacrifice my clothes to bring it. I’ve performed at Flinders University, where I sang and played my harmonium.

It’s a fantastic experience to paint here. I’ve found many opportunities with different art competitions in Adelaide. There is a story behind every picture. Artists think about a lot of things before they paint. I love mathematics and analytics, and it’s almost the same with painting. You must consider a lot to make something with great focus. For example, I proposed an idea of ‘more education, less homelessness’ through the artwork I created for the Don Dunstan Foundation University Student Challenge.

It’s a great relaxation if I feel upset. Music, art and painting are how I get my space.

Why is community service important to you?

I get satisfaction to know I’m doing something for somebody, and I get to meet and talk with people for a purpose. I love to do that. It doesn’t cost a lot. Maybe some time and some concentration. But what I get back is far higher than the cost.

I’ve volunteered as a resume checker in the Flinders Career Hub and at the Flinders Community Market distributing food to my university mates. I also volunteer at the Australian Red Cross and visit a neighbourhood aged-care home to sing together and do a cultural exchange. I also sing regularly on Radio Bangla Adelaide.


Highly Commended: Hemlata Karki from Bhutan

Studying: Master of Education at The University of Adelaide

As a teacher, Hemlata believes higher education for women is crucial to achieving economic independence. With outstanding academic results and a specialisation in research, she hopes her studies will help build a research culture and capacity for teachers in Bhutan. Hemlata plans to develop professional development programs for teachers and to promote modern approaches to teaching, learning and assessment.

Through her studies in Adelaide, Hemlata has learnt how to embed wellbeing and happiness into an academic curriculum. She looks forward to implementing this in Bhutan, where they promote the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) over Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Hemlata also believes in gender equality, and notes there are few women in her country with a master’s degree in education. Hemlata has volunteered in various capacities to encourage this to change including participation in the Australia Awards South and West Asia Scholars Forum which focused on gender quality. Her “most important career goal, indeed a lifelong goal, is to promote gender equality.”


Highly Commended: Najma Khaliq Khan from Pakistan

Studying: Master of Arts (Women’s Studies) at Flinders University

Najma is a passionate feminist who has worked for many years for the emancipation of women and girls in Pakistan. Until now, much of her learning has come from on-the-job training and informal short courses. But Najma yearned for the in-depth knowledge that could only come through formal academic training. Having worked with the Australian Government (DFAT) in Pakistan, she chose to study in Australia and says living and studying in Adelaide is a dream come true and more.

Najma volunteers for several Adelaide not-for-profits and continues her work in gender-related issues including speaking at the Council of International Students Australia’s anti-discrimination week and participating in the Australia Awards South and West Asia Scholars Forum on gender equality.

When she returns to Pakistan, Najma hopes to resume her career in the development sector, preferably as an advisor to an international development organisation or donor agency. “I will be taking back a wealth of knowledge and memories to last a lifetime.”

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