Rose Begani (pictured above) admits she was hesitant at first to get a COVID-19 vaccination but that soon changed after she researched and examined the facts.

“I considered that vaccines have saved lives from preventable diseases such as polio, smallpox and TB and that they are developed to save lives,” the Environmental Health lecturer at the Divine Word University (DWU) in Madang said.

“I was informed by a fellow Australia Awards alumni that a third wave of COVID-19 was possible in PNG and that the entry of the much more transmissible Delta variant would be dangerous for non-vaccinated people.”

Rose is now encouraging families, friends and students to follow her example.

“I am mindful of how I advocate for taking the vaccine so that I am not perceived as coercive, as it is each individual’s choice to get the vaccine,” she says.

Rose is drawing on the leadership and teamwork skills she developed when completing a Master’s in Health at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with an Australia Awards Scholarship in 2009.

Those skills have seen her selected to serve on DWU’s COVID-19 awareness and education team.

“The team spirit was uplifting and a great success in driving the key educational message on COVID-19 and its prevention measures,” Rose said.

Rose is also setting an example more broadly as a woman leader in academia.

“The research trainings I participated in as an Australia Awards scholar prepared me well for a leadership role in research at DWU,” she says.

“This has given me the edge to publish eight papers locally and internationally, both individually and in teams.

“In 2020 I was the recipient of the DWU Teaching Excellence Award. Again, this reflects the exposure and experience I had as an Australia Awards scholar in Australia.”

In recognition of her achievements and leadership, Rose has been awarded another Australia Awards Scholarship for study at QUT in 2021, this time to undertake a PhD in environmental health.

Rose says she is thrilled by this new opportunity to deepen her skills and knowledge and contribute even more to the PNG-Australia Partnership.

“Without the Australian Government’s support through scholarships, I would not have come this far in my career and academic pursuits.”