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Sri Lankan alumnus receives lifechanging opportunities after Australia Awards Scholarship

Posted: 22 January 2024

Sri Lanka, Alumni, Experience, Impact, Inclusion,

Madhushanka Dissanayake received an Australia Awards Scholarship in 2022 to undertake a Master of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne. He returned to Sri Lanka in 2023 after completing his studies. Currently, Madhushanka works as the Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka and as a Senior Assistant Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka.

We recently asked Madhushanka a few questions about his Scholarship journey. His responses below highlight how his Australia Awards experience benefitted him by supporting him to study a topic close to his heart and with practical applications in Sri Lanka, by helping him expand his professional networks, and by enhancing his career and employability.

What led you to pursue a Master of Information Systems, and why did you choose to study in Australia?

My decision to study information systems was driven by a strong interest in technology and its applications in solving real-world problems. I recognised the increasing importance of digital transformation in today’s rapidly evolving business and technological landscape.

Moreover, as a civil servant in Sri Lanka, I have come to realise the paramount importance of acquiring information and communications technology (ICT) skills in order to better serve my country. In Sri Lanka, as in many other nations, digital transformation has become imperative in the public sector. The ability to leverage ICT is no longer a choice but a necessity to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of government services.

Studying in Australia provided me with the opportunity to gain a global perspective on information systems, access top-quality education and experience a multicultural environment that enriched my learning experience. I am confident that by integrating my ICT knowledge with my role as a civil servant, I can contribute significantly to this digital evolution, thereby delivering more efficient and citizen-centric services to the people of Sri Lanka. I am committed to embracing this transformation and adapting to the changing landscape of public administration.

Madushanka engaging in an interactive session during the Scholars Forum in 2023.

What made you passionate about your area of study?

I developed a deep passion for information systems through a combination of factors. First and foremost, I have always had a fascination with technology and its transformative potential. The way technology can streamline processes, enhance decision-making and connect people across the globe has always intrigued me.

Furthermore, the growing importance of information systems in the modern world, especially in business and government operations, has become increasingly evident. Information systems play a significant role in improving efficiency, making data-driven decisions and fostering innovation. This realisation inspired me to explore this field further.

Can you tell us about your experience in Australia, both at university and off campus?

My experience in Melbourne, particularly at the University of Melbourne, was truly remarkable. I cherish every moment of my stay in Australia. The University of Melbourne provided an academically stimulating and globally renowned environment for my studies.

At the university, I was exposed to world-class academic staff, cutting-edge research-oriented learning opportunities and a diverse student body. The coursework was challenging and thought-provoking, and the lecturers encouraged critical thinking and independent research. The University of Melbourne truly lived up to its reputation for academic excellence.

Off-campus, Melbourne is a city that perfectly blends a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a strong cultural and artistic scene. Exploring the city’s neighbourhoods, attending music and arts festivals, and enjoying its culinary diversity were some of the highlights of my off-campus experiences. Melbourne’s status as one of the most liveable cities in the world was evident in its vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.

I also had the opportunity to interact with people from various backgrounds, both local and international, which enriched my cultural awareness and broadened my horizons. Studying at the University of Melbourne and living in the city of Melbourne not only provided me with a world-class education but also offered a unique and enriching experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.

Madhushanka visiting the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

How has your Scholarship helped you develop your professional network?

My Australia Awards Scholarship has been a transformative experience in terms of expanding and fortifying my professional network. The Scholarship not only supported my academic endeavours but also introduced me to a world of invaluable connections and opportunities.

Additionally, Australia Awards events such as the Scholar’s Forum, other workshops and networking opportunities have been instrumental in forging connections with professionals from diverse backgrounds. These platforms have allowed me to engage with like-minded individuals, share insights and collaborate on projects with a global perspective. The relationships I have built through these avenues have been a source of inspiration, mentorship and collaboration.

Furthermore, the recognition that comes with being an Australia Awards scholar carries significant weight in the professional world. It has been a passport to meetings and interactions with professors, researchers and industry experts who have extended their guidance and unwavering support throughout my academic and career journey. These connections have not only enriched my knowledge but also opened doors to exciting opportunities in my field.

In essence, my Scholarship has proven to be more than a financial lifeline for my education; it has served as a catalyst for constructing a dynamic and diverse professional network. The individuals I had the privilege to connect with have played a significant role in my academic and career development, and for this I am profoundly grateful to Australia Awards.

Madhushanka (far left) with fellow Sri Lankan scholars and Anna Peterson, Assistant Director, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka & Maldives Section (third from left) at the Scholars Forum in 2023.

What was it like to return to Sri Lanka after your study in Australia?

Adjusting to returning to Sri Lanka after my international studies was a process that involved several stages. It was a transition that required both mental and practical adjustments. Surprisingly, I experienced a form of reverse culture-shock. After adapting to a new way of life, I had to readjust to my familiar surroundings. This involved relearning daily routines and social norms, and reconnecting with friends and family.

The transition to living back in Sri Lanka was also marked by a commitment to continued learning. I have actively sought out opportunities for further education and professional development, ensuring that I remain up-to-date and well-prepared in my field.

Overall, the adjustment to returning to Sri Lanka was a process that involved both introspection and proactive steps to integrate my international experiences into my life back home. It has been a journey of personal growth and a commitment to contributing positively to my local community.

How has your Australia Awards experience supported your career enhancement?

My Australia Awards experience has been instrumental in supporting my career enhancement. After returning to Sri Lanka following the completion of the Scholarship, I was appointed as a Senior Assistant Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka and as the Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka. Undoubtedly, the Australia Awards experience played a crucial role in helping me secure these prestigious positions. I am genuinely pleased that I can now apply the knowledge and skills I acquired during my Scholarship towards the betterment of my country.

The high-quality education I received from the globally renowned University of Melbourne, coupled with international exposure to diverse perspectives and the opportunity to build professional and academic networks, has significantly improved my employability and potential for career progression in the future.

In summary, the Australia Awards Scholarship has served as a cornerstone in my journey of career enhancement. It has equipped me with the necessary education, skills and global outlook required to excel in my professional endeavours. I am grateful for this invaluable opportunity and I remain dedicated to utilising the knowledge and experience I have gained to make positive contributions to my field and society as a whole.

Madhushanka (left) interacting with fellow alumni from other South Asian countries at the Scholars Forum 2023.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My ambition is to serve my beloved Sri Lanka with unwavering dedication, tirelessly striving to usher in positive change and progress. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, I aim to channel my expertise in digital transformation towards addressing the vital challenges facing our nation. My ultimate goal is to leave an enduring legacy of development, innovation and prosperity.

What is your advice for someone thinking about applying for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

Embarking on the journey towards an Australia Awards Scholarship is a path to personal and national transformation. My advice is to dream big and choose your field of study wisely, as it is the first step towards realising your aspirations. Remember that every challenge you overcome and every skill you acquire will not only benefit you but will also be a valuable contribution to your home country. As you apply for this prestigious Scholarship, be the voice of change and promise to use your knowledge and skills to create a brighter future for your nation. Embrace every opportunity, stay persistent and never lose sight of your commitment to giving back.