Presenting a research paper at the 56th Annual Medical Symposium in Port Moresby in front of doctors and professors was something Winnie Sagiu never expected. The Australia Awards Short Course graduate was surprised to be acknowledged, despite her commitment and passion for research.

Winnie was one of more than 80 presenters at this five-day event in September, attended by the Prime Minister Hon. James Marape MP, Minister for Health and HIV Hon. Jelta Wong MP, professionals from the Medical Society of Papua New Guinea and students.

While working as an environmental health officer for the East Sepik Provincial Health Authority, Winnie submitted a scholarship application after learning about Australia Awards through an alumni post on Facebook. She was one of 20 Papua New Guineans to study the short course from July 2021 to February 2022.

After studying a Graduate Certificate in Governance and Public Policy (Social Research Methods). Winnie conducted the research on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy rates of healthcare workers in East Sepik Province. Her paper was timely and relevant to the Symposium theme.

“I was so excited at first when I heard that my paper had been accepted by the Scientific Research Committee for presentation. Then I was nervous and doubted myself. I felt inferior, as I am just a diploma and graduate certificate holder who will be presenting in front of these professionals. With confidence and trust in God, I presented the paper, and I was acknowledged for a very good presentation,” says Winnie.

Her acquired skills from the short course have helped her coordinate environmental health and WASH programs in Wewak, beginning with a district-wide baseline survey. The programs include food safety practices, waste management, vector control, environmental health impact assessment, disaster and disease outbreak response, health promotion and awareness and other public health activities.

“One significant thing I learned,” says Winnie, “is to plan and make decisions based on evidence. And that evidence has to come from research.”

Winnie also found the webinars and workshops hosted through the Australia Awards PNG Alumni very useful for her learning.

She has shared her experience and key information about the scholarships offered through Australia Awards PNG with her colleagues. “I have always encouraged other colleagues who wish to apply for the scholarships to read instructions carefully and provide all the necessary requirements.”

“I would like to acknowledge AAPNG and the University of Queensland for this study opportunity and the support offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.”