Thushara Samaratunga and his family are getting ready to leave the Gold Coast and return home to Sri Lanka, after Thushara became the first Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) international student to graduate from Bond’s new School of Sustainable Development with a Master of Urban Planning.
“There is a severe shortage of qualified urban planners in Sri Lanka so the skills and knowledge I have gained from my studies at Bond will really help to make a difference,” he said.
A town planner with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Urban Planning, Thushara received a full tuition scholarship to undertake postgraduate studies through the AusAID managed Australian Leadership Awards.
“After narrowing my options down to three Australian universities that offered the most relevant programs for me, I chose Bond because I could complete the degree in 18 months,” he said.
“As a mature-age student, I didn’t really need the extended holiday periods that other universities offered; I wanted to finish as quickly as possible so I could start putting my new knowledge to good use.”
Thushara and his wife have been living on the Gold Coast since January last year, with his eldest daughter attending primary school and his youngest still at home. While Thushara has had to apply himself to Bond’s intensive study schedule, they have equally enjoyed the cultural aspects of living in a country so different to their own.
Thushara is one of four AusAID scholarship students who will graduate from Bond this week: Liberty Chee, a teacher from the Philippines, has completed her Masters of Global Governance; Elah Abangan, also from the Philippines, will be presented with a Masters of International Relations; and Aryianti Palupi from Indonesia will graduate with a Masters of Art, specialising in teaching Languages Other Than English (LOTE).
“The AusAID scholarship program represents a significant investment in the developing nations of the Asia-Pacific region,” said Bond University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Stable.
“It helps increase the knowledge and skills base of the selected recipients which they can then apply when they return home, while also building partnerships between Australia and the participating countries.
“Given the international nature of our general student community, Bond is an ideal choice for these students; offering them an inclusive environment where they are studying with fellow students all over the world as they learn from our world-renowned professors.”
With his new qualifications, Thushara will return to the Ministry of Urban Planning to take up a position as Assistant Director of Planning. Now equipped with the knowledge that will help him create “a better living space for Sri Lankan citizens”, he is well aware of the long-term benefits of the AusAID investment.
“If Australia funds the building of a road in Sri Lanka, it helps to solve an immediate problem in one area,” he said.
“But by teaching us how to build roads, the AusAID scholarship program is setting us up for the future; giving us the tools to solve our own problems for many years to come.”