04 December 2023

Clockwise from top left: Morgan Budgeon, Melissa Ellen, Raine Baljak, Sarah Stone

Four high achieving University of South Australia students will embark on exciting overseas experiences next year, after being awarded prestigious New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarships in the 2024 round.

The students will travel to Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Thailand as part of the Federal Government’s initiative to boost Australia’s knowledge of, and connections to, the Indo-Pacific region through undergraduate immersions.

They will all study at universities while overseas and will undertake industry internships and language training.

These students will play an important role in deepening Australia's relationships in the region, both at the individual level and by expanding university networks in business and other areas.

This year’s UniSA NCP cohort is unique in that all four are UniSA Online students - based in London, Brisbane, and regional Western Australia. As online students, their upcoming face-to-face experiences on Asian campuses will be particularly memorable.

The group represents another first for UniSA, with its first Aboriginal NCP Scholarship winner.

Morgan Budgeon, a Kabi Kabi man (south east Queensland), is a Bachelor of Construction Management student. He will undertake a semester of study at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and plans to enhance his construction industry experience with an internship at an industry-leading multinational construction or mining firm.

Morgan hopes his experience will inspire other Aboriginal students to apply for the prestigious scholarship.

“I’m very proud that I am the first Indigenous NCP scholar from UniSA, and hope to be an excellent role model that other Indigenous students can look to as an inspiration when applying for future NCP rounds,” Morgan says.

With 15 years’ experience in the construction industry, he says the opportunity to study and work in the Indo-Pacific is a logical step, given the number of Australian construction companies contributing to Malaysia’s mega-infrastructure projects.

As a construction management student, the NCP Scholarship provides me with the opportunity to study and intern in a country where the buildings being constructed are much larger than in Australia. This will provide me with knowledge that I just wouldn’t learn on projects in Australia.”

Sarah Stone, a Bachelor of Health Science student with career aspirations in the foreign aid sector, will undertake her studies at Taylors University in Malaysia, and then plans to apply her education through multiple internships with humanitarian aid organisations in Cambodia.

Sarah is a former Lieutenant in the Australian Army who has volunteered in Haiti, and is passionate about strengthening health security in the Indo-Pacific. She is keen to engage with stakeholders in the health and humanitarian sectors in Malaysia and Cambodia, to create lifelong relationships to support her career and fine-tune her aspirations.

“I hope to form lifelong connections that will line up with my career prospects and hopefully propel me towards a career in international human rights, humanitarian work, and health sciences.”

Gabriele (Raine) Baljak, a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutrition and Exercise), will study at National Taiwan University and undertake internships in Taiwan and Japan.

Raine's program will focus on amalgamating traditions with modernity for tackling inflammatory conditions through Indigenous diets and physical activity. Her strong desire to strengthen Australia's diplomatic ties with the Indo-Pacific region through scientific discourse is what motivated her to apply for the NCP Scholarship Program.

“The NCP program provides an unmatched opportunity to expose myself to diverse perspectives while engaging in advanced research,” she says.

“I aim to achieve a deep understanding of the integration of traditional and allopathic medicine for treating inflammatory conditions, like eczema, while establishing lasting collaborations and networks in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Melissa Ellen, a Bachelor of Psychology student, will undertake her NCP program in Thailand. She has an academic and professional interest in addiction and rehabilitation, and will study at Chulalongkorn University.

Melissa is eager to immerse herself in a country that is globally recognised for its industry leadership in addiction treatment. She’s looking forward to learning from Thailand’s unique approach to private and public psychological treatment, and its inclusive ‘East to West’ approach to care. She believes the experience and knowledge gained will provide her with an incredible opportunity ahead of her postgraduate studies and specialisation.

“Getting hands-on insight into the process of inpatient recovery will be invaluable in my future practice as a clinical psychologist working in rehabilitative care,” Melissa says.

“Professionally, I will be able to immediately apply the skills and knowledge gained in Thailand to my private practice working with clients battling addictions.”

The University congratulates this year’s UniSA NCP Scholarship winners and wishes them well in the life-changing experiences they are set to enjoy next year.


Media contact for all researchers: Megan Andrews M: +61 434 819 275 E: Megan.Andrews@unisa.edu.au

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