Australia Awards scholar plans for culture of research in Timor-Leste

Just two years into his Australia Awards Scholarship, Felix Piedade’s life has already taken a dramatic turn for the better.

Despite a disruptive start with an unexpected change in his supervision team and the typical challenges of living and studying in a new country, the Timor-Leste native says the scholarship has not only changed his mindset, it has also enabled him to identify development opportunities for Timor-Leste.

“This scholarship has changed my life,” declares Felix, who began his Doctor of Philosophy (Business) in 2014 at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, and also earned a place in the Australian Awards Leadership program.

“Since I began my PhD at Flinders, I can see that the future is open for a strong research culture in Timor-Leste. I’m currently looking at ways I can support our university system with research capacity when I return home in March 2018”.

One of Felix’s strategies for promoting a strong culture of research in Timor-Leste is to target current students who may be interested in doing a research including Masters Students who want to proceed into a PhD program. “I can begin building connections now so that in the future I can draw upon these connections to establish a strong research team or institution at a university,” he says.

Felix added that while Timor-Leste is beginning to see its fair share of PhD graduates, ongoing research is not always a priority for graduates who must also think about how best to earn money to support their families. For Felix, public and private sector funding is the key. “We need to encourage more funding and support for academic research in Timor-Leste. Our own research should contribute evidence to support and influence the development of public policy and support private sector development. ”

“My time in Flinders University has exposed me to just how important evidenced based arguments are in challenging policy that is not working in the interest of the Nation and its people.”

“In Timor, we have a lot of statistical data but it is not being properly scrutinized and analysed as the evidence-base for planning and policy making. This could be why many of our financial resources have not been used in efficient and effective ways”.

Armed with his new knowledge, skills and experience, and the professional connections and personal bonds he is developing with the academic staff, including his supervisor, Felix says once he completes his award he will be well positioned to contribute to supporting a culture of research and development in Timor-Leste.

“My Scholarship is really helping me to understand and put into practice a disciplined approach and how to conduct academically rigorous research.

“I have an understanding of how to respond to research problems, I’ve learned how to use software programs to conduct quantitative data analysis, and I’ve learned how to analyse causal relationships”.

Felix’s PhD thesis examines the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) on trade and technology transfer in Southeast Asian countries, exploring the causal relationship between foreign investment and trade and also foreign investment and technology transfer. His research aims to understand why some countries have more foreign investments than others.

Felix hopes to contribute to Timor-Leste’s sustainable development through his research outcomes by influencing decisions for the State’s budget allocation in ways which create an enabling environment to increase business confidence and to attract more investments both from foreign and domestic entrepreneurial organisations and individuals.

On a personal note, Felix is grateful for the positive impact his Australia Awards scholarship has had on his family, who came across to Australia with him.

“When my daughter came in 2014, she could not speak any English, now she even cries in English,” laughs Felix.

“I can see a bright future for my two kids. Besides learning the language, their mindset is also changing. They see things differently now.

“Even my son has started to think about university at such a young age – he said he wants to go to Flinders University when he finishes school. I told him when I was his age in primary school, I didn’t even have an idea what a university was!”

Felix expects to complete his PhD at the end of February 2018. Until then, he plans to continue to develop and maintain his growing network with local and international contacts and to focus on his studies and his family life.

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