New Colombo Scholars to help strengthen ties with Indo-Pacific

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Four exceptional University of Newcastle students are ready to spread their wings abroad in 2022 after being named New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholars through the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the country.

Indo Pacific

New Colombo Plan Scholars Jake Stephens, Chelsea Harris, Katherine Birrell and Emily Simpson.

Announced in a virtual ceremony by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, the Hon Senator Marise Payne, the New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program gives Australia's best and brightest undergraduate students opportunities to undertake semester-based study and internships or mentorships in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Australian Government initiative is designed to strengthen ties between Australia and the Indo-Pacific, the Scholarship Program offering recipients unique opportunities to enrich their learning and global citizenship.

University of Newcastle students Jake Stephens, Katherine Birrell, Chelsea Harris and Emily Simpson will visit Samoa, Fiji, Japan and Hong Kong to develop their skills in fields such as development issues, cross-linguistic communication, and construction technology and management.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global) Professor Kent Anderson said he was impressed with the calibre of Scholars representing the University of Newcastle, who would contribute to Australia’s re-engagement with the Indo-Pacific following the progressive reopening of international borders and travel into 2022.

“The New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program is about building knowledge, linking people, equipping leaders and increasing Australia’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific,” Professor Anderson said.

“I congratulate Jake, Katherine, Chelsea and Emily who have each earned a unique and valuable opportunity to enhance their global awareness and broaden their knowledge. I wish them well as they continue to achieve excellence.”

Additional honours were awarded to Katherine Birrell and Jake Stephens, named as the Fellow for their host countries, Fiji and Samoa.

Fellows are selected from amongst the highly-ranked applicants who are encouraged to play a strong leadership role in promoting the NCP while on their scholarship program and as part of the alumni network following completion of their scholarship.

The Scholars will visit their host countries in 2022 to undertake semester study or honours research as well as completing internships and language training.

The University’s 2022 NCP scholars, their degrees and host countries are:

Jake Stephens

Bachelor of Development Studies (Honours)

Host country: Samoa

Katherine Birrell

Bachelor of Development Studies (Cultures & Citizenship)

Host country: Fiji

Chelsea Harris

Bachelor of Arts (Honours)

Host country: Japan

Emily Simpson

Civil Engineering (Honours)

Host country: Hong Kong

In 2022, around a quarter of the 125 scholars are from regional and rural areas, over a quarter speak a language other than English at home, and more than half are women.

Scholars also reflect the diversity of study opportunities, highlighting the benefits an Indo-Pacific experience can bring to any discipline, from creative arts to engineering, law to agriculture.

Watch the 2022 New Colombo Plan Scholarships Awards Ceremony.

Watch Minister Payne’s congratulatory message to the 2022 NCP Scholars.


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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.