Murdoch postgraduates win Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Awards

December 11, 2012

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Murdoch University is the only university in Western Australia to have students win prestigious Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Outgoing Postgraduate Awards – with three taking the honour.

Valued at $63,500, the awards provide high-achieving students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the academic and social cultures of other countries by undertaking international study and work experience for up to a year.

With only 20 presented nationally, awards went to Brianna Lee from Murdoch University’s School of Law and Christine Parfitt and Paul van Nimwegen from the Asia Research Centre.

The trio were honoured at the official presentation dinner in Canberra on Thursday, December 6 at the National Gallery of Australia, and took part in a photo opportunity with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Ms Lee was recognised for raising awareness of human trafficking within Australia and advocating for better victim support, an area she will investigate further in Thailand.

“Human trafficking is a huge problem in Thailand, and a large portion of victims who have been identified in Australia over the last couple of years have been from there,” Ms Lee said.

“I’ve been able to make a number of contacts in Thailand, and I plan to work with them to see how victim support functions over there – what happens when a person is identified as a victim, what government and NGO support is available and its effectiveness.”

Ms Lee will also be learning Thai, doing cultural study and volunteering at a woman’s centre run by the Good Shepherds in Pattaya.

Ms Parfitt will be travelling to Indonesia to investigate the role of environmental education in the conservation of marine resources. After completing this research project, she is planning to undertake a three-month internship with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“Indonesia presents a unique opportunity to combine my concern for the status of turtle populations and interests in marine conservation, education and community development,” Ms Parfitt said.

Mr van Nimwegen will also be based in Indonesia and his research  will focus on how poorly performing Eastern Indonesian marine protected areas can be better designed and managed to achieve conservation, food security and livelihood goals.

Mr van Nimwegen is a dedicated conservationist who has experience working for a range of agencies, including Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Kakadu National Park. He previously volunteered in Indonesia on an AusAid assignment.

“Eastern Indonesia is one of the most marine biodiverse environments on the planet. For protected areas to be successful, the focus needs to shift toward understanding the social dimensions and ensuring greater benefits for local communities,” Mr van Nimwegen said.

Murdoch University is currently hosting a postgraduate student from Thailand, Ms Supaphen Sripiboon (Veterinary Science), who was awarded a Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Incoming Postgraduate Award.

Ms Sripiboon is undertaking research on elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus in elephants through the Murdoch School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences' Conservation Medicine Program.

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