Master’s student shares his future ambitions and advice for new Australia Award arrivals

Born in the mountainous municipality of Ainaro on the tropical island of Timor-Leste, Ricardo Manuel Chao Barreto Martins is no stranger to cooler weather, but he still found the Melbourne winter chilly when he started his Master’s in Engineering Science at Swinburne University.

One of six children, from a family with a small income, Ricardo’s dreams to be a civil engineer would have ended when he completed high school. But thanks to a group from Australia called the Ballarat Volunteers, he was able to study Architecture at UNPAZ, Dili, and during this time gained the opportunity to study for a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering at Angeles University Foundation in the Philippines. This is where he first developed his interest in the design of earthquake-resistant buildings.

In 2017, keen to further his knowledge, he returned to Timor and jumped at the chance to advance his studies via a Master’s in Engineering Science with a focus on structural engineering through the Australia Awards Scholarship Program.

Ricardo with fellow Filipino-Timorese Awardees

Now just over a year into his course, Ricardo is benefiting from accessing world class technology and working on his research with internationally renowned professors. He’s also been making many new friends from across Asia and the South Pacific who share his passion for the built environment.

Unlike Ricardo’s previous tertiary education experience in Timor and the Philippines, at Swinburne University, he is expected to challenge others’ analysis and research. At first Ricardo wrestled with concerns that challenging professors and fellow students was not respectful. But he quickly learnt to do this by observing his classmates and recognising how his research benefited from their questioning and debate.

‘Developing critical thinking helped me to analyse infrastructure development issues differently and be more resourceful in my research work.’

Not surprisingly his advice to newly arriving Australia Awards scholars would be to ‘Make friends with fellow classmates, share information and learning to further your studies, and don’t be shy about challenging others’ approach or analyses.’

If they’re studying in Melbourne he’d also advise them to bring some warm clothes to help them adjust to their new environment!

Ricardo before his bridge design exam

Currently in his final year Ricardo is busy working on two major research projects, which focus on the Assessment of Seismic Performance of Buildings in Timor-Leste. His ambition is to contribute to developing safe building design standards in his country and the correct compliance to these standards.

When he graduates and returns home next year, he has big plans to improve building design and safety in Timor-Leste, which is prone to natural hazards including wind and earthquakes.

As a first step Ricardo intends to secure work in an engineering design office in Dili, so he can design iconic, earthquake-resistant buildings in the capital. He also aims to teach at university, so he can pass on his knowledge and skills to the next generation of civil engineers, supporting Timor-Leste’s future development.

'Make friends with fellow classmates, share information and learning, and don’t be shy about challenging other people’s approach or analyses.’

Connect with us