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Studying Overseas with John Monash

The John Monash Foundation seeks out Australia’s up-and-coming leaders who have a desire to embark on international study. They facilitate prestigious postgraduate scholarships at the world’s best universities with the intention of strengthening Australia’s future capabilities by providing students with the opportunity to harness their international networks and knowledge.

In today’s article, Young Australians in International Affairs hear from three previous scholars who give insight into why they chose to apply for a post-graduate scholarship with John Monash and how overseas study enabled them to make a significant contribution to the Australian community.

Abigael Mawby – 2016 Scholar

The John Monash Scholarship enables Australians to deepen their engagement with their field through postgraduate studies at leading international institutions. It is a leadership scholarship that drives the acquisition of an international skill set that can be contributed back to Australia. I choose Columbia Law School to complete my Master of Laws (LLM), which focused on international law’s regulation of corruption, sanctions, and trade and investment more generally. I was able to design a course load that combined those areas of specialisation, and also exposed me to new ideas and criticisms that tested the bounds of my thinking.

Prior to receiving the scholarship, I worked for the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, the United Nations Office on Drugs in Crime (UNODC) in Tehran, and leading law firms in Australia. The LLM was an experience that embodied access to leading international lawyers and scholars in my field, and the ability to work directly on the issues that motivate me. During the program I was able to work with a leading international barrister on a case exploring remedies for victims of terrorism. As part of that work, I attended the United Nations with my co-workers to underscore the international community’s impunity in the face of crimes committed by Daesh. I also engaged my ongoing interest in anti-corruption law through a thesis that examined recovering the proceeds of corruption crimes through cooperation mechanisms in international law.

The John Monash Scholarship armed me with national recognition from my home country that I could use, in conjunction with my institutional learning, to succeed internationally. Completing the post-graduate coursework is simply the beginning of the road of opportunities that a leading international scholarship award can provide for scholars. Over time, the skills that scholars acquire abroad will continue to enrich and diversity Australia’s unique model of leadership.

Stephen Dietz – 2016 Scholar

I decided to return to study after working at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for a little over seven years. For most of that time I was negotiating trade agreements, so I spent my days thinking and arguing about who benefits from trade, ways to help those who don't, and how the system should evolve and grow as technology turns our traditional economic models upside down. At the same time, influential figures around the world were naming globalisation as the cause of many of the world’s ills – trade was demonised in the U.S. election and the Brexit referendum, and the existential threat was made apparent when major negotiations collapsed shortly thereafter. The pieces of the puzzle weren't fitting together, and I wanted to understand why.

This was the essence of my pitch to the John Monash Foundation. The board, staff and supporters were friendly and engaged throughout the application process, but their drive to solve the world’s problems shone through the brightest. For proof, one need only look at the Foundation's alumni - they have made some amazing contributions on international affairs issues, ranging from human rights to global health. Add to this their talent, determination and diversity – scientists, artists, engineers, lawyers, musicians, you name it – and joining the Foundation is an unrelentingly humbling experience.

And while the group is a privilege to be a part of for all those reasons, the best thing about being a John Monash Scholar is its extended-family-like closeness – crashing on couches, impromptu potluck dinners and help settling into a new city included. The international student experience can be somewhat daunting but we all muddle through it together. And when discussions turn - as they do - to how we might use this opportunity and this network to accomplish big things back in Australia and around the world, there is a real sense of potential, which is thrilling.

Alexandra Readhead – 2014 Scholar

My name is Alexandra Readhead. I am a John Monash Scholar from Western Australia, currently living in the UK. When I applied to the John Monash Foundation in 2013, I was working as a Governance Advisor to the Chief of Staff to the President of Sierra Leone. I worked with the Government of Sierra Leone to prioritize and deliver the President’s legacy projects, including getting 500MW of power on the grid, providing free healthcare to pregnant women and children under five, and building roads to connect major cities. Before that I was a policy adviser to Save the Children UK on maternal and child health, specifically, how to finance health services for vulnerable groups.

I applied for the scholarship to have the chance to change the focus of my career. I wanted to work with developing countries to increase domestic revenue to fund immediate public needs. How? By helping to build strong laws and institutions to prevent tax avoidance by multinational mining and petroleum companies. The focus on extractive industries was due to the sector being a major source of revenue for many developing countries (it may also be my WA roots!). The John Monash Scholarship enabled me to undertake a Master of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University. Studying at Blavatnik, I could work under Sir Paul Collier, a world expert on resource-rich societies. Paul supported my research into tax avoidance in the mining sector, leading to me publishing the first detailed account of the challenges experienced by African tax authorities in applying anti-avoidance rules to the mining sector: ‘Preventing Tax Base Erosion in Africa: a Regional Study of Transfer Pricing Challenges in the Mining Sector.’ I am now an independent advisor on international taxation and extractive industries. I directly advise developing country tax authorities, Parliamentary Committees, and regional assemblies, on strengthening legal frameworks against tax avoidance in the mining sector.

Being a John Monash Scholar afforded me the opportunity to contribute to solving a problem that prevents developing countries breaking free from the cycle of poverty. In addition, having been out of Australia for a while, the scholarship helped me reconnect with my Australian identity, and find new friends and role models amongst a community of outstanding, committed scholars. In future, I’d like to leverage Australian mining expertise to support resource-rich developing countries to transform their extractive resource endowments into inclusive and sustainable economic and social development.

Applications for 2018 John Monash Scholarships are now open for Australian Citizens who have completed or are about to complete an undergraduate degree. You can apply online at Applications close 1 August 2017.

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