By Sana Jamal –

ISLAMABAD (Pakistan) – Around 20 Pakistani professionals have been awarded Australia Awards Scholarship 2016. The participants gathered for a pre-departure briefing in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson farewelled the awardees who are professionals working in public health, education, economic growth, governance, mining and water resource management across Pakistan.

The scholarship program will help “develop the skills and knowledge to drive change and influence economic and social development in Pakistan and also build enduring people-to-people links with Australia” said Ms Adamson congratulating the awardees.

The Scholarship will support participants to enhance understanding of their work fields and “improve development challenges which Pakistan is facing.” The 2016 awardees belong to diverse regions of Pakistan, from Islamabad to Lahore, from Multan to Kasur to Chitral. Most of the students, who will undertake Masters level study at Australian universities, would pursue their degrees in top universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

Around 750 scholarships have been awarded Australia Awards for Pakistani students since 1999. And some 15,000 Pakistani students are currently in Australian universities, Ms Adamson informed.

“Pakistan and Australia share longstanding partnership and friendship” Ms Adamson said referring to demonstrated cooperation by Pakistan and Australia in the fields of education, law and security, agriculture and sports.

“Cricket is a bridge between the two countries and is the signal of solidarity that Australia shares with the people of Pakistan” she reminded.

Tony Crooks, Regional Manager, Australia Awards South and West Asia, held an interactive session with participants on life in Australia and preparations to go to a foreign country.

Australians are very hard working people but they never admit it, said Tony Crooks sharing tips with Pakistani students. He also informed the participants about Australian, culture, immigration and civic laws and regulation and discussed the challenges they may face living and studying in a foreign country.

Remarkably, around 12 of the 20 recipients were women.

“Gender equality is a core foreign policy priority for Australia and increasing women’s participation in economic growth is a core goal shared by Australia and the Government of Pakistan, as outlined in Vision 2025. Australia is supporting Pakistan to achieve this goal by focusing our aid investments on livelihood development, inclusive trade reform, access to finance, and by enhancing women’s decision-making authority.”

Participants also attended a session on Australian laws with Australian Federal Police officer Daniel Caruana.

Australia Awards are prestigious international awards offered annually by the Australian government to the next generation of global leaders for development.

The next round of Australia Awards Scholarships will open in February 2016.

Group photo of Pakistani participants with Australian officials at pre-departure briefing in Islamabad on 17 Nov 2015.

Group photo of Pakistani participants with Australian officials at pre-departure briefing in Islamabad on 17 Nov 2015.