New Colombo Plan Fellow Amarina Smith has a renewed focus on her career path as she gears up to take her next semester in Hong Kong.
After being named the New Colombo Plan (NCP) Hong Kong Fellow last year, the Indigenous rights advocate is building on a generational ideal that rests in the value of education.
Her mother, Irene Pass, is a high school teacher in her home town of Rockhampton where she schooled Amarina in legal studies during her senior year.
“My Mum has been really huge influence on me,” said Amarina. “She’s always encouraged me to believe that, through education, I can do anything if applied myself.”
This year, Amarina’s journey steps up a gear as she takes her second semester at The University of Hong Kong on her way to a double degree, a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Government and International Relations.
The six-month stay in Hong Kong is part of the scholarship program accompanying the Fellowship, which places Amarina among the highest-ranked NCP scholars.
While she plans to undertake most of her law electives in Hong Kong, Amarina will also explore her interest in diplomacy through an internship offered by the Australian Consulate there.
“I really love Asia because it’s such an interesting place,” said Amarina. “I’m really excited to be living there for six months and hope to get a really in-depth experience of the culture.”
Amarina already has a start with the 19-year-old learning to speak Mandarin in high school.
“I’m not fluent by any stretch, but hopefully I know enough to get by. There’s no better way to learn that by being immersed in it.”
However, it is the cultural diversity of Hong Kong that most fascinates the Indigenous student.
“Hong Kong in particular has a history of ethnic minorities, and getting to study that and how different cultures manage to live together will be interesting.
“The Fellowship has really helped me become more focused on what I want to do after my degree and it is opening up so many opportunities.”
Amarina’s core interests rest with human rights law, and while she also sees a future in international diplomacy, it is the potential closer to home that most excites her.
“I would love to do both and use my international experience back home in Australia as well,” she said.
“It would be a real privilege to be involved in shaping more of a culture that is inclusive of our people and include their narrative in the larger identity of Australia.
“I’d also like to think I could also become a role model for other Indigenous Australians that they can do incredible things if given the opportunities.
“The biggest issue facing Indigenous people, particularly in remote communities, is purely around access. Finding ways to bridge that is so important.
“Education is also something I am passionate about because I have seen the value of it in my family over three generations.”
Amarina, who heads to Hong Kong in August, plans to complete her Bachelor of Laws and Government Relations at the end of 2018.
The New Colombo Plan, launched in 2013, is an Australian Government initiative which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.
It funds selected students for periods of study of up to one year with each scholarship worth up to $67,000. The program also includes internships and mentorships, as well as flexible mobility grant programs for shorter-term practicums and research.