Swinburne’s Welcome Scholarship is providing opportunities for a new generation of students from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds to achieve their academic goals.
The Welcome Scholarship provides refugees and asylum seekers access to tertiary education in Australia without the burden of tuition fees.
The scholarships are offered for places in undergraduate courses, Foundation Year/UniLink Diplomas as well as Diplomas/Advanced Diplomas courses.
Three Welcome scholars share their stories of coming to Australia and how the scholarship has opened new doors for them.
Paving the way for entrepreneurial success
Shanthoss Neelarmstrong and his family left Sri Lanka in 2013 in search for a new beginning in Australia. However, this move presented Shanthoss with a new set of challenges when it came to pursuing a university degree.
“My siblings and I were considered international students, making education expensive and difficult to access,” Shanthoss says.
Swinburne’s Welcome Scholarship led Shanthoss to make the move from Queensland to Victoria. He is now studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), with dreams of opening his own business one day.
“Over the last few years, I have contemplated a range of different careers, however I always came back to my love for engineering and technology. I enjoy problem solving and being challenged and hope to one day achieve my goal of starting my own business.” he says.
“With my interest in robotics, having my own business will provide the flexibility and opportunity to explore new possibilities in manufacturing.”
Shanthoss believes it is important to give back and was involved in various community service initiatives while he was in high school.
Helping others with their new beginnings
For Najm Aldin Musa Haroun Bishar who left his home country of Sudan due to the political conflict there, starting afresh in Australia required a great deal of adjustment, to a new language, culture and weather.
In order to meet the requirements of Swinburne’s Welcome Scholarship, Najm completed a Diploma of Nursing under the Victorian Government’s Free TAFE program. Upon successfully securing the Welcome Scholarship, Najm is now on the path to realising his goal of studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science.
Having experienced first-hand the challenges of adjusting to a new environment, Najm became involved with the Darfur Community Association of Australia (DCAA) to help others in his shoes.
“DCAA is a not-for-profit organisation that assists Sudanese nationals in Melbourne to integrate into wider Australian communities. I was elected president of the organisation in 2020, and during my term, I successfully established a community show Margin Voice on 3CR community radio. We also held many social events and welcome parties for Sudanese immigrants and raised funds for those affected by war in Sudan,” he says.
Najm hopes to pursue postgraduate studies in Psychology, and eventually work as a psychologist.
A passion to help others
Like Shanthoss and Najm, Amanda (not her real name) and her family moved to Australia in search of a better life and opportunities.
“After losing my job during the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself reflecting on my options for the future. “I reached out to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) for guidance on my educational prospects and they directed me to Swinburne’s Welcome Scholarship,” says Amanda.
“I applied for the scholarship and was overjoyed to receive an offer from Swinburne. This opportunity marked the beginning of a new chapter, and I am excited to embark on this journey to achieve my academic goals.”
Amanda is now studying a Bachelor of Computer Science majoring in Cybersecurity – a field she has a personal interest in and passion for.
“Information technology (IT) is a field that helps individuals, organisations and communities achieve more. IT professionals support the goals and cultures of the people and organisations they serve, I have always been passionate about helping others and I would love to be part of this field,” Amanda explains.
While starting over in a new country can be daunting, Shanthoss, Najm and Amanda agree that education and persistence are instrumental in building a new life.
“Education is a source of empowerment; this holds particularly true for individuals embarking on a new chapter in an unfamiliar location. As someone who has lived through this, I strongly encourage others in this situation to pursue your aspirations and ambitions.
“Keep seeking opportunities as you never know when life may present you with a chance to thrive, just like it did for me with Swinburne’s Welcome Scholarship,” Amanda says.
Najm recommends others with a refugee or asylum seeker background to consider Swinburne’s Welcome Scholarship.
“From my experience, the team at Swinburne was very helpful with my scholarship application. Swinburne also offers many services to assist students, especially those from non-English speaking backgrounds,” Najm says.
Shanthoss adds that persistence is key in pursuing new opportunities.
“My message to others in a similar situation is to never give up. It will be hard, but the end result is worth it,” says Shanthoss.
More information on Swinburne’s Welcome Scholarship, including eligibility requirements and details on the application process can be found on the Welcome Scholarship page.