Mahroo Arshad

Mahroo Arshad

A Civil Servant with
the philosophy
“Actions speak louder
than words”

Mahroo Arshad

A Civil Servant with
the philosophy
“Actions speak louder
than words”.

Mahroo Arshad

About Mahroo

Mahroo Arshad is a passionate civil servant from Pakistan, residing at the Graduate House.

She was a recipient of the 2018 Bursary Award at Graduate House.

Mahroo’s Story

My name is Mahroo and I am an Australia Awards Scholar from Pakistan studying a Master of Development Studies at The University of Melbourne. I am a passionate civil servant, determined to do my part to contribute towards the development and progress of my country. My philosophy of life is simple, though outdated in today’s world of marketing and communications: ‘actions speak louder than words’.

After graduating in pharmacy, I started my career as a pharmacist. My first appointment was in a public hospital in a small town, where I worked for eight months before switching to the civil service. Working as a pharmacist, I recognised the shortage of resources and the mismanagement of available resources. The hospital had a small budget in which it had to ensure 24/7 provision of essential medicines. In doing so, I had to trade off the provision of free medicines for outpatients to the availability of emergency medicine. As the hospital was servicing poor patients who lacked money to purchase medicines, the provision of free medicine was vital for their health and wellbeing.

So I initiated a medicine bank with the help of fellow colleagues and local philanthropy. Through that bank, I was able to offer free medicine to patients. Soon I realised that I was working on a small scale, that these problems were structural in nature and, to make a difference, I needed to be at the helm of policy-making. Therefore I sat the Central Superior Service (CSS) Exam, a highly competitive exam conducted annually to select future civil servants.

After joining the civil service, I served in public affairs and policy positions at the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Ministry of Textile Industry, Ministry of Commerce and the Benazir Income Support Programme. Working in these ministries as a public affairs officer to the responsible minister blessed me with the opportunity to make a difference and serve my people.

During my tenure at the Benazir Income Support Programme, I worked on policies related to the empowerment and financial inclusion of the poorest women. This made me develop an interest in gender and social protection that brought me here to The University of Melbourne to study development studies.

In November last year, when I was preparing to leave for Australia, I was worried about my accommodation. The thought of being alone and away from my family in a foreign land stressed me a lot. Safety and comfort were the prerequisites that I was looking for, so I booked myself to stay at Graduate House. It soon became my home in Melbourne with its warm welcome, ease and warmth.

Living at Graduate House has been wonderful, especially the communal living experience which has been really supportive. It was great to have fellow residents around when I felt a bit low, was missing home or felt stressed under the burden of assignments. Melbourne, best known for its diversity, has offered much to my passion of ‘learning’. The energy of Melburnians has introduced me to a new outlook on life.

I am excited to take this learning back home and to have it impact positively on the things that matter the most to me.

    Other Awardees from Graduate House

    You can view the list evry person that has won an award in the form of a scholarship, bursary, National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) nomination and more at the Graduate House Website. 

    Mehak Masood – The Story of an Environmentalist

    Mehak Masood – The Story of an Environmentalist

    The story of an Environmentalist

    Mehak Masood

    The story of an
    Environmentalist

    Mehak Masood

    About Mehak

    As an environmentalist from Pakistan, Mehak Masood came to Melbourne to undertake her Masters at The University of Melbourne.

    The Graduate House helped her experience her ‘all-time dream’ of collegiate living while commencing her course as she has always been a day scholar prior to this.

    Mehak Masood received the Bursary award in 2018 which will help her attend the Climate Reality Training 2019 in Brisbane.

    Mehak’s Story

    I am an environmentalist, not only professionally or academically, but at the core of my heart, as it runs in my legacy. My grandfather and father were environmentalists, so I have been born with this passion.

    Given my love for the cause, I completed my B.Sc Honours in Environmental Sciences and M.Phil in Environmental Sciences at Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, Pakistan.

    I am fortunate to lead the environmental agenda in governmental and non-governmental organisations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The British Council and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    My tenure of work has granted me the chance to display not only my technical expertise but also my non-technical skills like communication, advocacy, policy development, monitoring and evaluation. My communication work involves seminars, policy dialogues, workshops and awareness walks.

    In my eight years of work, I have been an advocate for environment and climate change issues, with a wide-ranging audience that includes governmental officials, students, diplomats, academia, religious leaders, homemakers and rural populations on various social and technical topics.

      The following shows some of my global achievements:

      • May 2015, Amman, Jordan: Selected among 80 young leaders and represented Pakistan at the Mosaic International Leadership Programme.
      • September 2015, Miami, USA: Completed the Climate Reality Project Training by former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore.
      • February 2016, London, UK: My green social entrepreneurship project was selected and presented to HRH Prince Charles.
      • March 2017, London, UK: Trainer and Group Leader from Pakistan in the Prince’s Trust International Leadership Programme.
      • January 2018, Melbourne, Australia: Commenced my Master of Environment at The University of Melbourne, upon receipt of the Australia Awards Scholarship Program.

      I believe in being a smart, hard worker; networking; being vocal; breaking stereotypes; being innovative in my approach; being an out of the box thinker; and finding localised solutions to make things happen. In short, I’m a doer and a go‑getter.

      My Graduate House Journey

      When I received my confirmation and placement at The University of the Melbourne, my priority was to find accommodation near the university. So, in that search, I visited the Graduate House website and instantly made my decision to stay here. It’s my all-time dream, to enjoy the hostel life, since I have always been a day scholar all my life. Gladly, this wish came true over here. Also, the best part of staying at Graduate House is that you feel it’s like a home. The comfort and food are fantastic. The emotional support, networking, exposure and bonding that I received from Graduate House has made my Melbourne journey very beautiful and memorable.

      My best moments over here have been: participation in the Rotary International Women’s Day Breakfast; International Women’s Day Dinner; and winning the Graduate House Bursary, which will help me attend the Climate Reality Training 2019 in Brisbane. Also, being part of different committees has been an excellent learning experience.

      Australia was always my favourite country, and it was my childhood dream to live and study here. After Pakistan won the cricket World Cup in 1992 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), it was top of my wish list. During my studies, I have had the chance to explore the Australia National Emission Inventories and Environmental laws and regulations. My fondness for the country and for knowledge compelled me to apply for the Australia Awards Scholarship. This was my first attempt and I was fortunate enough to be selected from thousands of applications. Living in Melbourne and studying at The University of Melbourne has made me a more mature and stronger human being. I have had many excellent opportunities to exhibit my knowledge and skills, which include:

      • sharing my journey with my class fellows as part of my core subject, Sustainability Leadership and Governance;
      • working with The Climate Reality Project Australia;
      • being invited to be a guest speaker by BNP Paribas, in my capacity as a Climate Reality Leader, to deliver a lecture in June 2018, in Sydney. I addressed more than 300 corporate investment bankers on the reality of climate change; and
      • showcasing my story on social media on International Women’s Day.

      Each day here has been full of adventure, excitement, learning and knowledge. It has been the best time of my life. Melbourne, and I can say Australia, has so much to offer: cafés, food, activities, sports, beaches, festivals, diversity, wilderness and natural beauty.

      I must say that a part of my soul will always remain in Melbourne and at Graduate House. My relationship with this city and Graduate House is lifelong, and it will strengthen with time. Australia has given me the appreciation, respect and morale boost to fight and conquer all obstacles, to keep moving forward with my passion and high spirits. It is because of the positivity and the magic that prevails in the air of Australia.

      Thank you, Australia, Melbourne and Graduate House for everything.

      Other Awardees from Graduate House

      You can view the list evry person that has won an award in the form of a scholarship, bursary, National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) nomination and more at the Graduate House Website. 

      Daniela Yaneva: A different side of leadership

      Daniela Yaneva: A different side of leadership

      Daniela Yaneva

      About Daniela

      Daniela was a Resident Member at the Graduate House.

      She was selected to represent the Graduate House at the National Student Ladership Forum 2018, in Canberra.

      NSLF Reflection

      Let me be a little braver

      When temptation bids me waver

      Let me strive a little harder

      To be all that I should be

      Let me be a little meeker

      With the Brother that is weaker

      Let me think more of my neighbour

      And a little less of me

      I stood at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on the 24th August 2018, listening to Dr Brendan Nelson, the Director of the Australian War Memorial, recite the above poem, which was found on a crumpled piece of paper, held by a fallen soldier taking his last breaths. The words spoken not only reflected my experience in Canberra over the four days, but also illustrated a number of lessons to continue to live by.

      I was fortunate to have been chosen to attend the 2018 National Student Leadership Forum, along with 200 other incredible delegates from all around the world. In the 21st century in particular, ‘leadership’ as a concept is something we often hear about. We see self-help books written about it, and Ted-talks focused on ‘The Qualities of a Good Leader’, but rarely question the values and beliefs that lie beneath one’s leadership. When people lead, they are typically doing so because they value or believe in what they are promoting. And whilst leadership is portrayed as a positive quality, leadership on its own, if driven by the wrong values, can lead to disastrous outcomes. The forum did not focus on a vague ideal of ‘leadership’ but rather the specific and individual values and beliefs that drive each individual’s leadership. It was thus more about why people led, rather than how effectively or ineffectively they led. I got to hear why people were passionate about the different causes they aimed to promote, what made them get out of bed every morning, and how these values translated into effective leadership in the long run. ‘Leadership’ is also often associated with individual skills, abilities and achievements. One of the most important takeaways from the NSLF for me was that true leadership required less of advancing one’s own interests and desires forward, and more of promoting a greater cause — whether this be the community’s needs, or the nation’s.

      “Let me think more of my neighbour and a little less of me”

      During dinners at the Forum, we were presented with some of the most incredible speakers, having undergone countless experiences of struggle and resilience. One such story we were fortunate enough to hear was the story of Carolyn and David Stedman. Carolyn and David are currently in their 70s, and have been married for nearly 50 years. For the past 42 years, they have dedicated their lives to providing care for over 70 foster children! Many of the children Carolyn and David took in were previously abused, abandoned, born with addictions, and experienced severe mental illness. Regardless of the challenges, Carolyn and David took them in and cared for each one as one of their own. The couple spoke about how their lives consisted of sleepless nights, and having to administer doses of cocaine to small babies as many were born with addictions. What was most difficult however was that Carolyn shared that many times she was not told what happened to the children after they had gone back to the foster homes, and their adopted parents rarely contacted her with updates.

      This story exemplified true selflessness and the importance of a stable family environment in the beginning stages of a child’s development. More importantly however, it exemplified the importance of contributing to the community through something as simple as caring, without expecting anything in return. To me, Carolyn and David will always serve as a perfect example of servant leadership.

      “Let me be a little meeker with the brother that is weaker”

      One of the greatest lessons taken from the Forum for me was the power of compassion. During the four days in Canberra, I met the most extraordinary people and listened to some of the most breathtaking and heartbreaking stories. I heard about individuals being born in the jungle due to the militia burning their village down and all the pregnant women fleeing. I heard the story of Professor Munjed Al Muderis, now a leading Australian orthopaedic surgeon, who was faced with a decision in his home country whether to dismember refugees captured by the militia or get killed, forcing him to flee the country. I heard stories about refugee camps and harsh immigration paths, and about love and suffering amongst it all. What surprised me the most about all of the stories however was that I never thought, by looking at or speaking to the individuals on a surface level, that these were the experiences each had gone through.

      The delegates of the NSLF volunteered together in surrounding communities, helping out with anything the local residents needed. This included tasks such as raking leaves, watering plants and gardening, but also tasks such as walking pets or simply speaking to residents about things they had recently gone through. The word ‘help’ meant different things to each person, and the community service was a great opportunity to explore practically what it means to serve others.

      “Let me be a little braver when temptation bids me waver”

      Being sucked into our busy lives, we often do not have time to reflect or think about anything but ourselves and our passions and interests. And whilst at times this is desirable, the National Student Leadership Forum taught me about the importance of working for something greater. I saw a different side of ‘leadership’ — one that involved a greater goal than just individual desires and goals. All of the elements of the forum left a lasting impact both in how I understand ‘leadership’ as well as how I practice it daily.

      Other Awardees from Graduate House

      You can view the list evry person that has won an award in the form of a scholarship, bursary, National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) nomination and more at the Graduate House Website. 

      Juanjuan Wu: “What lies beyond that mountain? A bigger world! A better world.”

      Juanjuan Wu: “What lies beyond that mountain? A bigger world! A better world.”

      Juanjuan Wu

      “What lies beyond that mountain?”
      “A bigger world! A better world.”

      About Juanjuan Wu

      Juanjuan was born and raised in a small, peaceful but poor village surrounded by mountains in a remote and rural town in southern central China. She became her village’s first child to go to the university.

      She has been the worthy recepient of many scholarships, including the Melbourne Research Scholarship that enabled her to attend the University of Melbourne.

      The Graduate House’s Margaret Watson Travelling Fellowship and the Robert Heaton Research Support Award, as well as the Arts Graduate Research International Grant, generously provided by the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, helped her make research trips to the UK and Croatia to present findings from her field work at internatinal conferences.

      Research

      “Do not make the family lose face”

      I was born and brought up in a small village surrounded by mountains in a remote rural town of Hunan, a province located in the middle reach of the Yangtze River in southern central China. I am the eldest of two children born to my barely-educated parents. Shadowed by China’s one-child policy, my parents were farmers who needed more labour to earn their basic livelihood. Like many other farmers in that situation in the early 1990s, they were allowed to have a second child given that I, their firstborn, was a girl. The second baby was also a girl.

      When I was three, my mother, during the seventh month of her pregnancy, was asked to abort her third baby, a boy. Despite the fact that my father and grandparents tried every means, like many other families at that time, to protect and hide her from local officials, the abortion was performed. Preference for sons was very strong in our village. Traditionally, it is boys who ensure that the family name and bloodline live on, while girls are usually absorbed into their husbands’ families. The failure to secure our family bloodline brought humiliation to my parents. However, this humiliation later motivated my parents to invest whatever meagre means they had in schooling their two girls.

      My parents expected us to eclipse and overshadow the boys in our village, believing that this would make up for their lost pride. They kept telling me and my sister: “You are not boys, but you should not make the family lose face.”

      At the age of 12, I started my life in a boarding school in our town. A year later, I had my first English lesson. In 2006, I was accepted into our town’s best high school, where I read a bilingual version of a classic work of English literature, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This stirred my passion for English literature. In September 2009, I enrolled in Shandong Normal University in Jinan, a city some 1,400km northeast of my birthplace, taking English as my major in the hope of landing a decent job after graduation. Instead of hunting for jobs, I resumed my tertiary journey at Fudan University in Shanghai in 2013, pursuing my Master’s in English literature. So far, I was the first in our village to go to university and to get a Master’s. I had not let my parents lose face. My sister on the other hand travelled the life road taken by most of the girls in our village. She quit school at age 15, and three years later married a young fellow from the neighbouring village. She then joined an army of migrant workers employed in a big but strange city. Her birth to two healthy, smart boys, has won my parents’ hearts. She has more or less saved their face, though in a different way.

      After graduation in June 2016, I became an editor in a publishing house in Hangzhou. Participating in a project about foreign travellers to China, I gleaned fascinating stories by English women who travelled in my country from the 1860s to the 1930s. Impressed by their courage in challenging rigid gender binaries, breaking many boundaries in order to make their voices heard, I decided to do a PhD, focusing on Victorian women’s travel narratives to China and the entangled relations of mobility, emotion, gender and empire. Applying for an appropriate programme and scholarship was a journey full of ups and downs. Fortunately, I was awarded a University of Melbourne Research Scholarship, and my dream to study overseas came true.

      Feeling at home in Melbourne

      Then at last came my long-awaited day of starting my adventures in Melbourne. On 27th February 2017, I commenced my PhD in English and Theatre Studies, in the School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne. I was warmly welcomed into my new life by a very relaxing lunch, kindly offered by my supervisor Professor Deirdre Coleman at University House. For the first three months, I had been sharing a small apartment with a Chinese girl. My first experience overseas was getting worse as I felt increasingly isolated. Deirdre sensed my loneliness. She recommended I move into Graduate House and introduced me to Parisa Shiran, one of her PhD students and a resident there. Parisa invited me to Graduate House for dinner. Thanks to Parisa’s help, I was fortunate in securing accommodation at Graduate House in May 2017. Since then my life in a foreign country has changed for the better.

      Being part of such a friendly, convivial and vibrant graduate community has made all the difference to my PhD life. I have met and made friends with people from different countries, varied disciplines and across all life stages. They have filled my life with friendship, understanding and mutual respect. We have explored many bars, cafés, parks, gardens and fantastic scenic spots together in Melbourne on weekends; we have had many thought-provoking discussions about a large array of topics over delicious breakfasts and dinners, as well as many night walks; we volunteered together; we celebrated gender equality by participating in ‘HeForShe’, expressing our hope for a better world for both men and women; we shared our joys over many formal occasions such as the Diamond Jubilee Fundraising Gala, Christmas in July dinner and Christmas dinner, Chairperson’s Cocktail Party, Annual General Meeting and Party in May and the Ramadan Iftar Banquet. The Movie Night almost every Thursday has seen us scream out over horror movies, laugh our heads off over comedies and sometimes shed tears together. The Monthly Luncheon, College Table, Women’s Forum and Australian-Asian Association of Victoria’s events conducted here have provided me with ample opportunities to interact and network with brilliant minds from across the professions, inspiring me in various ways. I have also benefited a lot from the JobFocus Group. The English Conversation Corner has played an important role not only in improving my English, but also in enhancing my confidence and overcoming many of my shortcomings. The Graduate Union also provides graduates with scholarships and I am indeed grateful to have received two of them.

      At Graduate House, I have come to know many great friends, all of whom have helped me in different ways. Dr Kerry Bennett, The Graduate Union CEO/Head of College, has led me on a journey of self-discovery. Her encouraging and empathetic words and actions have many times given me the power to deal with setbacks in my research and problems concerning interpersonal relationships. She cares for every resident here, protecting and looking after us like her own children. Professor Max Stevens has helped me expand my network, making it possible for me to know more people and immerse myself in local culture. Dr John Howes and his wife, Margaret, of Learningguild, an international educational and social movement based in Melbourne, have extended their warm friendship to me. They have guided me in learning English and enlightened me with many open discussions about ‘civilisation’, ‘education’, ‘character and personality’, ‘freedom of thought’, ideas of John Stuart Mill and many other topics.

      These two, and other friends I have met during Sunday meetings, always welcome my opinion from a Chinese perspective, encouraging me to articulate my own voice. Ms Sheila Byard of the League of Women Voters Victoria, with her passion for gender equality and international relations, has shared with me much knowledge and insights, helping me to look at interactions between the British female sojourners and the Chinese people from a different perspective. I have been deeply impressed and inspired by her personality, her enthusiasm in empowering young women like me, and her passion in working for women’s rights. She also introduced me to Dr Deborah Towns and other members of the Melba Group, a group of women leaders from many spheres of influence in the Victorian community. All of them have extended their kindness to me. My friendship with Cr Mary Kelleher is also most valuable. She kindly offered me the much-privileged opportunity to share my developing project at the Annual General Meeting of the Australian-Asian Association (AAA). This chased away my doubts and made me see the significance of my research. Other people from AAA, including the President Lady Josie Blyton, always give me a most heart‑warming welcome.

      I would like to express my sincere thanks to all these lovely friends who I have come to know at Graduate House. They have made a big difference to me. As a girl raised in a closed-off and far-flung village in China, educated in a traditional Chinese way, I came to Australia with a cultural package crammed with certain cultural notions and habits. For example, I was trapped by Chinese ideals of femininity without knowing how they have restrained me in many aspects; I didn’t dare to speak out, even in group discussions; I had deep fears around socialising; I lacked the courage to talk to people in higher positions; I didn’t have confidence in myself, my work and everything that I had done; I didn’t step out of my comfort zone to try different things. However, Graduate House and all my friends here have pulled me out of my comfort zone and led me on a journey to find out what I am capable of.

      My project: Is transcultural friendship possible in the age of high imperialism?

      Thanks to the most helpful supervision from Professor Deirdre Coleman and Dr Grace Moore, I am gradually refining my research project. So far, I am looking at narratives of travels made to China by a selection of Western women from the late-Victorian to the Edwardian era. I am making an interdisciplinary dive into the past to retrieve women’s nearly-lost voices in the history of international relations between West and East, between the British Empire and China. I hope to present a more nuanced picture in which, in the age of high imperialism, women’s narratives articulate varied forms of transcultural friendship and cooperation with Chinese people. Their travels and writings reveal a cosmopolitan vision that goes beyond narrow nationalism and imperialism, encompassing all humanity across boundaries of race, nation and culture.

      Thanks to Graduate House’s Margaret Watson Travelling Fellowship and the Robert Heaton Research Support Award, as well as the Arts Graduate Research International Grant, generously provided by the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, I made research trips to Cambridge, Oxford, London and Edinburgh in the UK from 18th August to 13th September. I also presented some findings from my field work at an international conference, ‘Borders and Crossing’, in Pula, Croatia, from 14th to 17th September. This was my first visit to Britain and Europe. Its influence on me is surely life-changing. My sincere thanks again for all the help and support extended to me by Graduate House, my supervisors and my dear friends here in Melbourne.

      Other Awardees from Graduate House

      You can view the list evry person that has won an award in the form of a scholarship, bursary, National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) nomination and more at the Graduate House Website. 

      Joshua Rhee: On faith and leadership

      Joshua Rhee: On faith and leadership

      Joshua

      Rhee

      About Joshua

      Joshua was a Resident Member at the Graduate House. 

      He was selected to represent the Graduate House at the National Student Ladership Forum 2018, in Canberra.  

      Joshua

      Rhee

      About Joshua

      Joshua was a Resident Member at the Graduate House.

      He was selected to represent the Graduate House at the National Student Ladership Forum 2018, in Canberra.

      NSLF Reflection

      Most people in Australia will remember the 23rd to 26th of August 2018 as the period during which the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull became the fourth Prime Minister since 2010 to be ousted by party room politics rather than the will of the people. However, during this very same period of time, deep within Parliament House — out of sight of the cameras, and unbeknownst to the reporters typing away at stories about the failing leadership in our nation’s capital — a group of around 200 young people from all around Australia were just about to embark on an incredible journey where they would learn unforgettable lessons about leadership, faith and values. These were the delegates of the 2018 National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) on Faith and Values, and — thanks to the support of Graduate House — I was lucky enough to be one of them.

      I first learned about the NSLF through an internal advertisement at Graduate House. I didn’t know much about the Forum at the time — only that it would involve participation of young people from a diversity of intellectual, cultural, and religious backgrounds. As someone who is interested in finding ways that people with fundamentally different values and beliefs can co-exist with one another, the prospect of interacting with, and learning from, such a diverse group of young leaders was enough motivation for me to apply (although if I’m honest, the fact that the Forum involved staying at the Hyatt Hotel over four days did not go unnoticed).

      Day 1: People and Parliament

      My first impression of the NSLF was a crowded conference room at the Hyatt Hotel. The buzz of excited and nervous energy filled the entire area, as 200 delegates from all over Australia tried to orient themselves to their new surroundings. Most were experiencing the all too relatable feeling of vulnerability and excitement as they introduced themselves to someone who they had never met before, with the hope that it would lead to a new moment of human connection.

      The first official item on the schedule was meeting our small groups — the eight extraordinary people with whom I would spend the most time during the Forum. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would eventually come to share my story, insecurities, and vulnerabilities with these people, and they would return that trust in kind by sharing their own stories and vulnerabilities.

      After completing brief introductions at the Hyatt, we all headed over to Parliament House, where the first scheduled activity was sitting in during Question Time in the Senate. Due to the leadership spill, the Senate was almost empty, with only eight or so Senators present. Yet, this did not seem to prevent the Senators present from diligently pushing through the day’s order of business. During our sitting, we saw the Senate consider the Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill, and also agree to an amendment made by the House of Representatives to a Bill which introduces a civil penalty regime for non-consensual sharing of intimate images online. Each item of business brought before the Senate was subjected to the same formal and monotonous process: “those in favour say Aye”, “those opposed say No”, “I think the Ayes have it”. It was an interesting juxtaposition to the excitement and intrigue that had been associated with the leadership spill, and a subtle reminder that the work of running a country is often less dramatic than the 6pm news might lead you to believe.

      Following question time, we moved from the Senate to the Parliamentary Theatrette for our first seminar on Leadership, Faith and Values. The seminar was followed by a period of brief uncertainty, where the organisers frantically tried to ascertain whether the Prime Minister would be available to attend the scheduled question and answer session. Unfortunately, we were eventually informed that the Prime Minister could not be there (we would find out that this was because he had officially announced that he would resign if a majority of his party signed a petition calling for a leadership vote), however, the Leader of the Opposition (who had far greater job security that day) was able to attend. After the Q & A, we split off into our small groups and were invited into the deep recesses of Parliament House for an intimate meeting with a Member of Parliament in his or her natural habitat. My group was lucky enough to meet three members of parliament, the Hon Tony Abbott, Michael Andrews, and Craig Kelly MP. This was the first time in my life I had met so many politicians in a single day (my previous record being zero), and I found the following insights quite interesting: first, all of the politicians I encountered were far more charismatic in person than their television interviews would suggest; second, these same politicians were remarkably attentive listeners; and third, that the Hon Tony Abbott’s unmistakable laugh was indeed genuine, and often used in ordinary conversation.

      Day 2: A Day of Remembrance

      The second day started with the Lone Piper and Poppy Laying ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. To me, this was one of the most moving experiences of the Forum. The Poppy Laying ceremony was preceded by an address from Dr Brendan Nelson, the Director of the Australian War Memorial. In that address, Dr Nelson mentioned that one of the major inspirations for the War Memorial was a young soldier dying on the battlefield, who had asked one simple question “Will I be remembered?”. Throughout Primary and Secondary school, the ANZACs had always been described to me as extraordinary heroes, larrikins who were fearless in the face of impossible odds. Yet, this story of the young soldier, painted the ANZACs in a different light. As people with the all too relatable desire to be remembered — to have a life that was meaningful. This realisation that the ANZACs were such ordinary individuals, made the stories of their courage and sacrifice all the more extraordinary.

      Following the War Memorial, we headed back to Parliament House for a seminar on servant leadership. After the seminar, while we were having lunch on the front lawn of Parliament House, it was announced that the Hon Scott Morrison had become the new Prime Minister of Australia. The news was not taken well by the protesters in front of Parliament House, as many had prepared placards against the Hon Peter Dutton MP.

      Day 3: A Day of Service and Extraordinary Stories

      The third day began with an inspiring speech by Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis, an orthopaedic surgeon who came to Australia by boat as a refugee. He spoke of how his refusal to break his Hippocratic oath, when ordered to mutilate political dissidents back in his homeland, had resulted in himself becoming a target of the government, and forced him to flee to Australia as a refugee. His message was a simple but powerful one: when you get the chance to help someone, do it, because you may never get another opportunity.

      After breakfast, I heard the extraordinary story of Rev Luther Tarpeh, who was born under a mango tree in Liberia, because both his country and his family were too poor for him to be born in a hospital. He told us about how his mother had made it her entire life’s work to ensure that he received an education, and that with her dying breath, she had said that she had sacrificed everything for him, so that he could do the same for others. And so, despite starting out with nothing but a desire to serve others, Rev Luther began his extraordinary journey. Firstly he became the voice of the Liberian people on a radio show with millions of listeners, and finally to be on the verge of founding Liberia’s first independent university that will be completely free of corruption.

      In the afternoon, we were called upon to put the idea of servant leadership into action by going out into the suburbs of Canberra and doing some community service. For my small group, this involved levelling out a front yard, and taming the largest bramble bush I had ever seen. As someone who usually considers himself an ‘indoors man’, this was initially a somewhat daunting prospect. However, I found once I got into the rhythm of things, cutting down brambles proved to be somewhat therapeutic, and also very rewarding once I saw the (only slightly crooked) results of our handiwork.

      General Reflections

      These are some of the more memorable stories from the NSLF, and there are many more incredible moments and events that I did not have the space to share here. When I first applied to be one of the Graduate House nominees to the NSLF, I did so thinking that it would be an incredible opportunity to hear about the faith and values of others. What I did not expect was how much the Forum would call on me to reflect on my own faith. Throughout the Forum, I heard stories of extraordinary leadership that were made possible by faith. During the seminars we were taught that faith is “confidence about the future in the midst of uncertainty”, and that while values can change, faith remains constant.

      Most importantly, when speaking to my peers, I heard about how their own faith has given them strength to overcome obstacles and allowed them to achieve things that they thought were impossible. I don’t mean to pretend that attending the Forum has allowed me to find my faith. But, at the very least, it has made me appreciate the need to start looking.

      Other Awardees from Graduate House

      You can view the list evry person that has won an award in the form of a scholarship, bursary, National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) nomination and more at the Graduate House Website.