• Tony Bosworth

Never give up, says Hawkesbury student who’s won prestigious international scholarship

A Hawkesbury university student who says you never know what’s round the corner has been awarded a prestigious international scholarship by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Liam Holt of North Richmond is DFAT’s New Colombo Plan Scholarship Fellow for Nepal for 2021, a 12-month scholarship which aims to increase Australian knowledge of the Indo-Pacific by supporting local undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

Liam is studying for a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law at Macquarie University, and the scholarship will allow him to head to Nepal where he will study Legal Practice at Kathmandu School of Law, as well as complete internships with the Nepalese Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security, and the Fijian Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.

“Liam is an extremely articulate advocate for the rights of women,” said Macquarie MP Susan Templeman who said she had “the privilege of hearing him speak on the subject during a young leaders’ event I held with Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek, at Hawkesbury Race Club last month”.

“I was very impressed by his passion, and I congratulate him on receiving this prestigious scholarship.”

Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek, New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program Fellow Liam Holt, and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman at the young leaders’ forum in the Hawkesbury in December 2020

Liam says it is an honour to receive the scholarship and said it will put him, “in a position to consult with and work within government ministries in Nepal and Fiji on policy proposals to increase public sector involvement and investment into the manufacturing and distribution of sustainable and reusable feminine hygiene products”.

“It gives me incredible access to use the levers of power to generate hugely beneficial outcomes for young girls and women in Nepal, whilst also strengthening the domestic economy of Nepal and creating opportunities for economic growth,” Liam told the Post.

Around 120 scholarships are provided to a diverse range of Australian undergraduate students through the New Colombo Plan program every year.

“I’m immensely lucky to already be consulting on a feminine hygiene management project being implemented in a government school in Lalitpur run by a sustainability NGO called ‘Small Earth Nepal’ in conjunction with funding from the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu,” says Liam.

"There are numerous studies that indicate that young girls in emerging economies miss up to 20 per cent of all school days over their academic careers solely due to menstruation (either as a result of the cultural and social stigma that menstruation carries for women, or as a result of inadequate access to feminine hygiene products or sanitation facilities), and being able to help in closing that gap, through a focus on destigmatisation of menstruation and providing greater access to feminine hygiene goods, represents a unique and amazingly special opportunity for me," Liam said.

The ex-St Monica’s Primary School student who then went on to Richmond Public School in the Opportunity Class from years 5-6, and Penrith Academically Selective High School for Years 7-12, will spend 12 months in Nepal.

“I’m going to be studying the Nepali language for six months which will be a great experience - being able to form meaningful personal relationships and friendships within Nepal, and help to shape really positive perceptions of what it is to be Australian - a bit of a fun-loving larrikin, but also strongly community-oriented, and willing to make a difference.

“Being able to experience all of the cultural elements of Nepal is something I am really excited about; being able to engage with and be exposed to the norms and practices of a predominantly Hindu nation will give me a lot of opportunity for personal growth and development.”

Liam believes everyone can make a difference – it’s just a matter of working out what your strengths are.

“I’m passionate about social justice issues and social policy. I know I can write policy proposals for better laws to help fix social problems, and lobby for better outcomes. For others it might be a passion you have for community sport, and for improving conversations around mental health - combining them into getting your sports club behind regular team huddles and talks offering understanding and support for team members struggling with mental health issues.

Family matters: brother-in-law Brad Green and Liam back row, and from left-to-right in the front row: Liam's sister Madeline Green (nèe Holt), father Wayne, mother Tricia - who told Liam to apply again for the scholarship - and younger sister Olivia Holt

“The combinations are nearly limitless; every student has something that they care about and something they are good at.

“Making a difference is as simple as looking for a way that you can use your unique talents and skills to make the things you care about better in some way.”

It’s not all been plain sailing for Liam, but he says persistence is the key, and what’s round the corner is not usually obvious, but it’s there.

“The best piece of advice I have ever been given is to remain open to all opportunities. Lives can change in enormous ways on the basis of seemingly inconsequential decisions.

"After missing out on this same scholarship in 2018, I honestly believed that I would never apply again and that it was something that would never be attainable.

"After COVID-19 cancelled my exchange that was planned for the second half of 2020, my mum reminded me that the worst thing that could possibly come from applying to the Scholarship again was not getting the Scholarship, exactly the same position I was already in.

“So I applied, and kept getting further, and further, and further until I was in the final interview convincing career diplomats and humanitarians that I was finally ready to finish this chapter of my redemption arc, and start a new one making a difference to the world.

“I would encourage everyone to remember that if an opportunity comes along and it doesn’t work out, another one is waiting around the corner that you can always say yes to.”

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