Name: Umbelina Maria Soares Rodrigues
Institution: Flinders University in Adelaide
Course of study: Master in Health and International Development
Years completed: 2015
In December 2015, Umbelina Maria Soares Rodrigues completed a Master degree in Health and International Development at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Despite her recent graduation, Umbelina has already contributed substantially to the development of her country, Timor-Leste, through her ability to network with academics and professionals, and new found friends in Australia.
When Umbelina was presented with this opportunity; she jumped at the chance, recognising the doors it could open not just for her professional development but most importantly for her people at her home town and her country. Umbelina said “In addition to advancing my academic knowledge and skills, I also developed professional and personal networks with academic, professionals, Australian friends and friends from all over the world who were studying in Australia. The support I received from the university and Australian health professionals was indispensable in facilitating my study and my professional growth. During my Scholarship, I had the opportunity to established a professional partnership and collaborate with an Australian-Timorese Friendship Groups which connects the people in Willoughby City Council in Sydney and the people of Ossu (my hometown). Called the Willoughby Friends of Ossu, the project supports Ossu’s community health care (CHC) services, education program and youth empowerment project through the existing parish administrative bodies in.”
While studying at Flinders, Umbelina focused on honing her technical skills. Specialising in Health and International Development, her career plan is to contribute to the quality of and equitable access to primary health care services for women and children in rural Timor-Leste.
“The country has made steady progress in the health sector since its independence, but the Timor-Leste Demographic Health Survey 2010 indicates that this young nation continues to face considerable challenges in reducing maternal mortality ratio, the infant mortality rate and stunting rates among children under five. There is no one easy solution as there are many factors contributing to these issues. Some of these include limited human resources capacity, inadequate facilities and infrastructure and increased awareness about the management of the nutrition needs of pregnant women and very young children.”
Given the urgent needs within Timor-Leste’s health system, Umbelina is sure she has invested in all the right skills to help achieve her goals, including studying subjects which covered issues of women’s health and early childhood survival.
Umbelina’s obvious leadership skills also earned her a place in the Australian Awards Leadership program in addition to her scholarship. The future leader says thanks to her award, she has made contact with over 200 Scholarship recipients from 47 developing countries who all share a common dream to contribute to the progress of their respective countries. As an added bonus, the awardees exchanged stories about their Scholarship experience in Australia, soaking up the multicultural experience of cities like Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and the surrounding hinterlands.
“Having the right knowledge and skill set is one thing but it is also very important to have the right attitude, looking at the world through other people’s eyes, be realistic but open to new experiences and treat everyone with respect and dignity,” she said.
As someone who comes from a very remote village in Timor-Leste (Loihuno – Ossu) and who had to walk a 20km return trip to her high school in the rain and under the sun, Umbelina hopes that more girls and women from rural Timor-Leste will have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and apply for a scholarship to study in Australia or in other countries with good quality education- much like herself. Education is the key to positive change at the national level, in the community and even in the family. In speaking of her hopes for Timor Leste, Umbelina mentions a statement made by H.E. Prime Minister, Dr. Rui de Araujo in one of his speeches: “When you educate boys and girls, you strengthen gender equality, and yet educating girls is educating the whole family and the whole nation”. Her Australia Awards story is living proof of this sentiment.
For more info, please go to: https://globalalumni.gov.au/AustraliaAwards/Home.aspx