3 Torrens University students awarded New Colombo Plan Scholarships

We are proud to announce that three of our students have just been offered prestigious Australian government New Colombo Plan scholarships to live, study and work across the Indo-Pacific.

To Be Global is one of Torrens University’s core values. This value is grounded in ensuring open mindsets and broad thinking, and to know that our students are citizens of the world whose learnings will determine what the future holds for humanity.

We are proud to announce that three of our students have just been offered prestigious Australian government New Colombo Plan scholarships to live, study and work across the Indo-Pacific. These students truly embody what it means to Be Global.

While Torrens University students have been New Colombo Plan scholars in recent years, these are our first students who have been awarded this new tier of scholarships which includes an internship and special stipends.

Sharna Motlap, Georgina Birch and Kate Walker join just over 100 young Australians who will venture out into the Asia Pacific region as part of ongoing efforts to build Indo-Pacific literacy in Australia as part of important bridge building initiatives. This is the first cohort of Torrens University students to have ever been offered New Colombo Plan Scholarships – so it’s truly an achievement to celebrate.

The ultimate goal of the New Colombo Plan is to provide Australian undergraduates students with an opportunity to undertake study and internships in the Indo-Pacific region and create people-to-people links with the region.

Since 2014, the New Colombo Plan has awarded around 50,000 scholarships and mobility grants to young Australians to live, study and gain work experience in the Indo-Pacific. The scheme has had a significant impact on the lives and careers of its alumni – transforming their education, giving them the edge in graduate employment, and launching them on a pathway to ongoing engagement with the region.

Sharna is heading for Shanghai, Georgina to Hong Kong and Kate will travel to Seoul.

Combining Traditional and Contemporary Medicine to support Indigenous health

Sharna Motlap is an Indigenous woman from the Mmbarbaram tribe and Hammond Island in the Torres Strait, Sharna, a Bachelor of Nutrition, student is thrilled to be heading to the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to further her studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

“I am so honoured to receive this incredible life-changing opportunity through the New Colombo Plan scholarship,” she says.

“It is exciting to know that the culture, knowledge and experience Shanghai has to offer will be reflected throughout both my degree and my career in health.”

Sharna believes the opportunity to study in China will offer her unique insights into the marriage and interplay between traditional and contemporary medicine. She hopes she can apply her learnings to the Australian context upon her return, specifically in terms of integrating traditional Bush Medicine with contemporary medical practices to support the health and nutrition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“One of the reasons I study nutrition is to contribute to improving Indigenous health, which affects my family and community,” Sharna explains.

“Improving my health improved my quality of life, sparking a passion to improve the health status of all Indigenous Australians.”

Not only is Sharna excited to embed herself in another culture, she will also share her own culture with new classmates, colleagues and peers she meets in Shanghai.

“As a First Nations’ person working in Indigenous health, I can offer insight into our current approaches to nutrition which are often overlooked,” she says.

Sharna is excited to return to Australia more connected with the Indo-Pacific, both personally and professionally, and with an elevated knowledge of nutrition.

Supporting survivors of domestic violence and migrant mental health

Georgina Birch, who is studying the Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Counselling), is headed to City University of Hong Kong. She chose City University because she was “blown away by the quality of the social work faculty”.

Georgina, an aspiring counsellor, says she wants to support survivors of domestic violence – particularly migrants experiencing domestic violence who need mental health support.

“I have lived experience of domestic violence myself, a few years ago,” Georgina shares.

“My experience occurred when I was overseas away from a familiar support network. I was saved by a team of committed counsellors and a social worker who didn’t treat me any differently because I wasn’t a local.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for these wonderful people, so I believe that any foreigner in Australia who has found themselves in an unfortunate or life-threatening situation deserves to be looked after in the

According to Georgina, domestic violence cases increased during the COVID lockdown period in Hong Kong, yet stigma around seeking mental health support is still rife. This makes Hong Kong an ideal case study.

“I want to learn how to communicate with and approach this culture in order to assist the population in an appropriate and therapeutic manner,” she says.

Georgina says the experience will also allow her to better support the mental health of migrants within Australia, or overseas, in her future career.

“I have the outlook that if one person is not free, we’re all not free,” says Georgina, reflecting on why supporting migrants is important to her.

“If one person is suffering, we’re all suffering.”

Georgina hopes to open her own counselling business near her home on the Sunshine Coast. Specifically, she wants to fill a niche that she says is missing from the counselling sector in her local area: more culturally diverse counselling and mental health support.

Deepening relationships with our Indo-Pacific neighbours

For Kate Walker, receiving this scholarship to study abroad is a wonderful opportunity to gain a global mindset. The Bachelor of Applied Business (Management) student, will study International Business at Korea University Business School, and undertake an internship with either the Australia-Korea Business Council or AustCham Korea.

Kate, an Indigenous student based in the Northern Territory who currently studies as part of the Ducere Global Business School partnership, says she’s excited to continue her learning journey in another country and make connections in the international community.

“The Republic of Korea offers sophisticated technology combined with traditional culture, which makes it a fantastic location to study International Business,” Kate explains.

“I live in the Northern Territory, which has a small population of approximately 250,000. Comparably, Seoul has close to 10 million people! Living in such a bustling city will help me gain another perspective and help me think critically about the influences of doing business across international borders.”

Currently working in the Australian Public Service, Kate hopes she can use this experience to help break down barriers with our Indo-Pacific neighbours and increase trade and export opportunities.

“By understanding the global business environment, I will obtain a deeper understanding of business generally and broaden my personal perspective,” she says.

“Living in another country helps to build resilience and adaptability and make people-to-people connections in the global network.”

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