Amrita Kharel was a recipient of Swinburne's Welcome Scholarship in 2017

Aaron McNeilly

Environment of hard knocks to create a better place

Scholarship winner and Swinburne design engineering graduate Aaron McNeilly was exposed to formative experiences that inspired a passion to make a real difference in the world.

"I grew up on a farm in northern Victoria and saw some of the effects of climate change occurring as a result of society's poor management of the environment."

The McNeillys were forced to sell their property during a long drought, while Aaron worked in the packaging department of nearby SPC Ardmona during a gap year to afford to attend university.

“My family ended up selling the farm because it was no longer a viable enterprise due to prevailing conditions. It made me want to do whatever I could as part of my career to ensure I would make a positive impact for the environment, and within engineering."

He has since gone on to complete a Bachelor of Product Design Engineering (Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Sustainability at Swinburne, winning the $3,000 Sir Edward Dunlop Scholarship in 2011 for outstanding academic results and community service.

The funds underwrote his participation in an international project in Medellin, Colombia, where locally-sourced materials like ceramics were used to design and build playground equipment for developing communities around the Antioquia region.

"Hardly anyone spoke English but we were still able to communicate through illustration and design. South America was a critical experience. I learnt that a small change here can have a big impact overseas," he said.

Mr McNeilly is also a board member of Help Us Grow. The non-profit HUG supports sustainable community developments in the rural villages of Uganda, such as the development of a healthcare centre and building self-sufficiency through the selling of handcrafts locally and overseas.

His experience at SPC, a subsequent scholarship to Germany, and his studies, have driven him to begin a start-up company to further sustainable development through product design.

"I have a huge passion for kids, as well as trying to help those less fortunate in developing countries. I want to make their lives easier. I want to make the world I touch a better place."

Aaron McNeilly, Sir Edward Dunlop Scholarship winner

The scholarship helped fund a Colombian project for community playgrounds

Aaron McNeilly, Sir Edward Dunlop Scholarship winner