Winners announced for 2021 NSW International Student Awards
12 November 2021
International students and organisations that have championed campus multiculturalism, driven environmental initiatives, promoted health and wellbeing, and supported students with food and essential items in the wake of COVID-19 are among the six winners of the 2021 NSW International Student Awards.
The winners of the awards were announced at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Museum of Contemporary Art to over 400 attendees, recognising the contribution of international students, education providers, businesses and community organisations from across the state.
Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney and Minister for Trade and Industry Stuart Ayres said the winners were selected from an outstanding field of finalists.
“These are individuals who put their community’s needs ahead of their own and who have shown leadership and courage to overcome all the challenges of 2021,” Mr Ayres said.
The event celebrated individuals across four categories:
- Higher Education – Ho Yin (Joshua) Wan (Hong Kong, University of Sydney)
- Schools – Qiufei (Frank) Lai (China, Epping Boys High School)
- Vocational Education and Training (VET) – Phaeng Xaphokhame (Laos, TAFE NSW National Environment Centre)
- English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) – Bruno Prats de Oliveira (Brazil, Navitas English Sydney)
“These contributions and achievements are even more noteworthy when you consider that COVID-19 meant they were unable to return to their home countries in 2021.”
The Minister also congratulated the two winners of the NSW International Student Community Engagement Awards. Addison Road Community Organisation’s ‘Solidarity & Aid with International Students’ initiative was awarded the Business and Community category award and Cabramatta High School’s ‘International Student Support Program’ was recognised in the Education Providers category.
2021 NSW International Student of the Year - Schools
Qiufei (Frank) LAI (China)
Epping Boys High School, Epping
As a student of Epping Boys High School since 2018, Frank has applied himself to consistently achieve high academic results while also involving himself in student leadership and artistic pursuits.
Hailing from Shanghai in China, Frank came to Australia with a dream to experience an education system that celebrated the individual and nurtured his artistic talents. At Epping Boys High School, he founded the school’s first Artist Club, a group of visual art students dedicated to improving and honing their craft while each bringing their unique experiences to the canvas.
Frank first demonstrated his interest in leading and supporting others in his role as a student mentor while in Year 10 and Year 11. He went on to join the Year 12 prefect body and has acted as a mature advocate for international students amongst the wider school community, promoting cross-cultural awareness and understanding.
He also played a key role in coordinating charity fundraisers such as Movember and World’s Greatest Shave at his school, demonstrating a commitment to both his academic efforts and community service.
A natural leader, Frank is reliable and an outstanding public speaker. In 2021, he launched an inter-school Year 12 international student gathering for Sydney’s northern districts. This event was held at Epping Boys High School in August.
Frank was recently entered into the school honour book, which is the highest accolade at Epping Boys High School. Since arriving in Australia, Frank has adapted to the educational environment and applies himself with diligence to be of benefit to staff, students and the wider school community.
2021 NSW International Student of the Year - ELICOS
Bruno PRATS DE OLIVEIRA (Brazil)
Navitas English, Sydney
From studying food science in his home city of Sao Paulo in Brazil, to completing an English language course at Navitas English in Sydney, Bruno has constantly kept the broader community at the core of everything he does.
Coming to Australia gave Bruno a chance to see a new perspective while also studying. He has been a dedicated student since the moment he arrived, and has documented his journey through the release of popular social media content through the Student Travel Bureau Agency. His content features a range of topics related to studying in Australia, to help demystify studying abroad and encourage people to do the same.
Bruno is highly active in the Brazilian community in Sydney, regularly meeting with them to provide assistance with phone calls, emails and study advice. He hopes to continue building a network of community-minded international students to support the cohort as a whole, whether it be through practical and financial assistance or with mental health initiatives.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Bruno worked as a deep cleaner for public schools while continuing his studies online, showing great initiative in finding work that needed to be done for the community.
Before coming to study in Australia, Bruno was a member of his local church in Brazil. He volunteered his time and money for the better part of a decade, rendering much-needed assistance to poverty-stricken neighbourhoods in Sao Paulo.
Bruno will shortly begin studying at UNSW Global after securing a scholarship for a Diploma program, which he received in recognition of his academic results from his study at Navitas English and his achievements from his college in Brazil. After completing his Diploma, he will then continue his journey into the Bachelor of Science at UNSW.
He hopes to join UNSW’s volunteer program when he starts his study there and is actively searching for local volunteer opportunities in Sydney’s churches and charities.
2021 NSW International Student of the Year - Vocational Education and Training
Phaeng XAPHOKHAME (Laos)
TAFE NSW National Environment Centre, Thurgoona
Phaeng is an avid permaculture student at the National Environment Centre at TAFE NSW in Albury. He plans to use his education to improve the lives of thousands in his home country of Laos.
While living in Laos, Phaeng used his expertise in permaculture to help raise subsistence farmers out of poverty by introducing them to modern permaculture techniques. Phaeng would like to contribute to a better future for his home country, and he sees agricultural technologies as the solution to the socioeconomic problems suffered by much of its population. He would like to reduce poverty for his community and he has proven to do so already in NSW.
Phaeng came to Australia in 2020, to learn more about permaculture from the global leaders in the field and to build his network. With a background in Agricultural Extension in his homeland, Phaeng recognised the benefits of international study and the perspectives it would bring.
While studying, Phaeng is working on designing and implementing a permaculture farm for a community of Congolese refugees in Albury. The project aims to help the community achieve food security, and in the long term develop income streams through the sale of local produce.
Through his course, Phaeng completed the design of a permaculture education farm he hopes to build in Luang Prabang Province in Laos. Farms in this area are small-scale, often managed by subsistence farmers dealing with poverty, land degradation and climate change.
Phaeng’s aim for the permaculture education farm is to demonstrate, teach and support small-scale farmers to develop resilient food production systems. The project will also teach permaculture in local schools to engage local children and help address malnutrition issues in the area.
2021 NSW International Student of the Year - Higher Education
Ho Yin (Joshua) WAN (Hong Kong)
The University of Sydney, Camperdown
Joshua has balanced his physiotherapy studies at the University of Sydney with dedicating time to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those around him, particularly international students.
Arriving from Hong Kong in 2019, Joshua has long been an advocate for the wellbeing of fellow students. This became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Joshua volunteered to join the University of Sydney Peer Health Education Program.
During this program, Joshua provided much-needed international student input and co-designed programs aiming to reduce mental health stigma and encourage help-seeking. One key strategy Joshua planned and implemented was the “Share the Journey” video series, in which he and other students shared their own mental health experiences. As a male international student, he played a large role in reducing stigma around mental health by sharing his story and reached thousands of people via social media.
Joshua is also a strong believer in building and maintaining intergenerational links. He has been an integral part of the Gold Soul Companionship Program (GSCP) at Scalabrini Village Bexley. This program enables students to live in the aged-care facility with residents and connect with them, hear about their life experience, and deepen relationships, contributing to building a family environment between residents and students.
One of Joshua’s more recent volunteering ventures is supporting the establishment of a disability support club, as an official student club within the University of Sydney Union (USU). This is the first student club connecting people with and without disabilities, promoting inclusivity, and providing a platform for mutual learning and understanding.
Joshua’s latest project is the “GrannyTell’ initiative, a collaborative effort driven by students capturing older adults’ life stories. With more than 150 questions received from students so far, the final product will include an exhibition and a physical book compiling questions from the younger generation, and responses from the older generation.
Joshua demonstrates resilience, care and generosity through his consistent volunteering efforts.
2021 NSW International Student Community Engagement Award - Business and Community
Solidarity & Aid with International Students
Addison Road Community Organisation, Sydney
Addison Road Community Organisation moved quickly at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to help vulnerable international students and migrants in Sydney access nutritious food and provide a support network to lean on. The Solidarity & Aid with International Students program worked to provide a basic safety net of healthy, culturally-appropriate food and a network to strengthen social cohesion, belonging and connection.
Addison Road Community Organisation expanded and transformed its existing Addi Road Food Pantry by changing their events venue into a Food Relief Hub and implementing immediate health and safety measures to ensure their low-cost grocery program could continue. Since March 2020, Addison Road has provided culturally appropriate emergency hampers to dozens of CALD and ethno-specific community-service groups, and thousands of vulnerable individuals international students and households. This food relief work continues daily and complements the program’s distribution of health and welfare information and social, legal and cultural support for multicultural communities.
Recognising that individuals and whole families – impacted by social inequality – would be experiencing heightened anxiety, stress and social stigma due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Addison Road also sought to create a support network to strengthen community connection. The Zoom Aunties connected socially-isolated senior Australians (mostly women) with younger foreign students and migrant workers who are far from their families and home environments. By engaging in English-language conversation, this meant social connection, social cohesion, and psychological well-being was enhanced for all participants, as well as a sense of belonging. The Zoom Aunties program also provided opportunities for improving access to other services and resources, as an informal educational opportunity.
Through these initiatives, Addison Road Community Organisation provided vital support for international students when they needed it most.
2021 NSW International Student Community Engagement Award - Education Providers
International Student Support Program
Cabramatta High School, Cabramatta
As COVID-19 disrupted the lives of international students, Cabramatta High School set out to address the academic, social and emotional needs of international students through their International Student Support program.
Through the program, Cabramatta High School supports more than 80 international students with their physical and mental wellbeing as well as their academic needs, by developing a deep understanding of the student and ensuring their families overseas are kept up to date with their lives.
This holistic approach involves a team of dedicated staff members ensuring support is available to international students both during and after school hours. When classes moved online due to COVID-19, Cabramatta High School conducted weekly phone calls to check in with international students, with ten students allocated to each teacher. Through these check-ins, international students requiring support are identified and referred to external counselling services, including the NSW Department of Education International Wellbeing Support Service and Headspace. The school also provided packs of groceries and winter items to support students struggling financially as a result of COVID-19.
By regularly checking on international students, the school could quickly identify those who were not able to meet their expected academic goals and deploy one-on-one in-class support for those students, complementing support available through the after-school homework centre. The school also develops Personalised Learning Plans to set goals and track improvement with students.
A true test of the school’s support for international students came when a Year 12 student became homeless in early 2021. The school assisted this student to access financial support through government funding and helped them find appropriate accommodation through liaison with NSW Department of Education International and a homestay provider. The program highlights Cabramatta High School’s commitment to supporting international students and provides a template for other schools to draw upon.