Denver Linklater: New Colombo Plan Recipient

Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance

The New Colombo Plan (NCP) is a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region. 

It involves a scholarship program for study of up to one year, as well as internships or mentorships, and a flexible mobility grants program for both short and longer-term study, internships, mentorships, practicums and research. 

Denver Linklater is a 2014 recipient of the New Colombo Plan and was given the opportunity to undertake a six-month program in Singapore with BASF's Global Research Centre. Advance caught up with Denver to hear about what her life was like in Singapore, why initiatives like this are important and what she is up to back in Australia.

How did the NCP increase your knowledge of the Indo-Pacific?

Through the NCP scholarship, I was able to live and work in Singapore for over six months. I had the privilege of obtaining accommodation with a Singaporean family and spent the majority of my stay in an HDB apartment. I also worked closely with Singaporeans during my internship at BASF. These experiences allowed me to gain in-depth knowledge of the Singaporean lifestyle, culture and traditions. 

Why is an initiative like this important?

The original Colombo plan scholarship attracted students from the Indo-Pacific region to carry out a portion of their studies in Australia, in order to build upon bilateral relations and strengthen economic and social development in the region. Likewise, The New Colombo Plan Scholarship enables Australian undergraduates to travel to countries in the Indo-Pacific region and to immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle of their respective host locations. The program aims to develop further knowledge of the region among young Australians and increase the transfer of knowledge and skills between the two countries. 

What did applying for and acquiring the scholarship involve?

During the pilot phase of the program in 2014, the application process involved a nomination by your university, followed by a written application, and then an interview conducted at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra. 

In what ways have you applied your takeaways as a research intern at BASF to your work and study back in Australia?

Following my return to Australia in 2015, I pursued post-graduate study with my current university, Swinburne University of Technology. The internship with BASF involved developing and completing a 'proof of concept' project and this helped me to improve as an independent researcher, with far more laboratory experience. 

What was your biggest takeaway of your time in Singapore?

The biggest takeaway was the personal and professional development I experienced living and working in another country. I returned to Australia knowing a lot more about myself, my capabilities and my direction for the future, as well as having a far greater appreciation for the people of Singapore and surrounding countries and their generosity and hospitality.     

Is there anything you think Australia can learn from Singapore and vice versa?

Singapore is a highly organised, highly regulated country with strict laws in place to prevent crime and corruption and to maintain peace and harmony within the city-state. It is also a highly cosmopolitan society where interracial harmony is incredibly important for everyday living. Australia would benefit from further programs to promote better integration of our migrant population.

Do you have any advice for young students such as yourself that want to increase their awareness of Indo-Australian relations? 

The best course of action is to spend a semester or two in the region. Take full advantage of the opportunities provided by your university and the Australian government to travel to the region and experience, first-hand, life in the Indo-pacific.