A report from the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility finds alumni are contributing to improvements in water management, environmental sustainability and public health initiatives in China.
A new report on the impact of Australia Awards alumni on public health and environmental policy in China has found they have significantly contributed to policy development and encouraged greater cooperation and respect between Australia and China.
The report was conducted by researchers at the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility, which is run by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The research team interviewed graduates who completed an Australia Awards fellowship in Australia between 2007 and 2010. The report found that alumni had developed a broad range of skills and knowledge during their studies, and that this expertise is contributing to improved health outcomes and water management practices in China.
The Australia Awards fellowships offer specialised training for emerging leaders – in this case, in the areas of water resource management, climate change and public health – and are designed to build expertise and encourage innovation. Chinese alumni were hosted by several key Australian institutions, including Griffith University’s Centre for Environment and Population Health (CEPH), International Centre of Excellence in Water Resources (ICE WaRM), the International WaterCentre (IWC) and Charles Sturt University’s International Centre of Water for Food Security.
The report also shows that Australian expertise is highly valued by alumni and participating employers. Professor Li, founder of the Chinese Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), says he chose Griffith University over other potential international partners because it was ‘strong in environment health and population health’ and very experienced in providing research, training and practice. Griffith University has had a long relationship with China CDC, including the provision of ongoing professional development training to staff. According to Professor Chu, Director of CEPH at Griffith University, many alumni are now ‘senior leaders’ actively contributing to national and international health policy; for example, alumnus Dr Hou is involved in global climate change research and recently contributed to the development of the Shanghai Declaration promoting health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for the World Health Organization in 2016.
Alumni who studied water resource management recall being exposed to new ways of thinking about the water cycle and management techniques. Ms Fan undertook the Integrated River Basin Management Fellowship Program in 2008 with IWC and believes her course was at least 10 years ahead of thinking about water management and hydrology in China at the time. She cites the focus on ‘the concept of water saving and water governance, especially the sustainability of water development’ as having a profound effect on her group, and says she underwent a significant shift in mindset during that time, especially around realising the power of public campaigns to promote water conservation. Ms Fan remembers being told to limit showers to four minutes because of the drought in Brisbane; now working in the Publications Centre at the Yellow River Conservancy Commission, she runs public campaigns to protect the Yellow River on a variety of media platforms.
The report also cites evidence that the fellowships helped fertilise research collaboration and led to ongoing working partnerships between many of the individuals and institutions involved. Additionally, it demonstrates strong and enduring ties to Australia; a number of MoUs between Chinese and Australian organisations have been issued in the area of capacity building of Chinese staff, and there is increased cooperation in the fields of hydrology, disaster management, climate change and non-communicable disease control.
To learn more about the long-term impact of Australia Awards on alumni, their home institutions and countries, please visit The Australian Awards Global Tracer website. ■
Read the full Case Study here.