UON: Friendships that span the globe

In 1968, nine teenagers met to board a plane for the first time in their lives. They were leaving Singapore to study at the University of Newcastle under a Colombo Plan Scholarship Program funded by the Australian Government.

Forty years later in 2008 the same nine people came together at a dinner to commemorate that event and to reflect on its significance for their lives. They decided they wanted to demonstrate their gratitude not only to Australia but also the University of Newcastle. The scholarship program had nurtured them through those years of university life and had provided them with a rare opportunity to study overseas. By the end of the dinner they had devised the idea of the 1968 Singapore Colombo Plan Students Scholarship.

Collectively, they raised $80,000 to support a scholarship in perpetuity for an academically gifted Australian student enrolled in second year in the University's Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment. In 2010, three of the original nine donors chose to extend the scholarship by establishing the 1968 Singapore Colombo Plan Students (Memorial) Scholarship. The three donors have given a further $69,000 to this scholarship to provide the option to continue support for the scholar into their third year.

Mr Peter Tay, one of the original Colombo Plan Scholars, has since coordinated the establishment of the Singapore Alumni Scholarship, which provides five scholarships to support Australian students facing hardship. Through this scholarship, Singapore alumni have generously given $200,000. This is a remarkable gesture and reflects the strong sense of belonging and commitment that each of our 115,000 strong alumni across our regions, Australia and the world have for our remarkable University.