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Our Alumni at work

Octávio Piedade (left) and a friend at the 2012 CDU graduation ceremony in Darwin Octávio Piedade (left) and a friend at the 2012 CDU graduation ceremony in Darwin

East Timorean Octávio Piedade understands the value a scholarship can make in the life of a university student as much as anyone. Fortunate enough to receive one during his undergraduate years at Charles Darwin University, Octavio said it gave him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realise his dream of obtaining an international qualification in an Australian tertiary institution. Now living in Dili, Octávio manages the Australia Awards Scholarships, where he helps others realise their dreams.

Why did you choose CDU as your tertiary education provider?

CDU offered the course I wanted to study (environmental science / management), but also because there are climatic similarities between Timor-Leste and Darwin. The lecturers were incredibly supportive of international students and willing and available to assist with our study needs. The Student Contact Officer also was very supportive. Fellow Timorese students at CDU and friends from other Australian universities told me that other universities do not have a contact officer like the one at CDU.

What does your role involve?

I work at the Australia Awards Timor-Leste Program Office as Australia Awards Manager, where we deal with applicants interested in applying for Australia Awards Scholarships. My responsibilities are broad, but in essence I support the scholarship director in determining the strategic direction for AAS, provide support for students in Australia, and for the alumni network. As much as this is rewarding, one day I hope to work in the area of environmental science where I will be able to apply the knowledge and skills I gained at CDU.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Meeting scholarship applicants and growing my network of contacts. It allows me the chance to meet people from some of Timor-Leste’s rural areas and from international agencies and the government. I talk with applicants about the importance of the scholarships and how they would support family, community and country after their studies.

What do you find most challenging about your profession?

The managerial function of my role is challenging. We work hard to ensure that the selection process is transparent, that AAS activities are accomplished, and to deal with ongoing student issues and scholarship matters. These tasks involve skills quite removed from those I acquired during my environmental science studies.

In 2012 you were a pavilion assistant working on Timor-Leste’s exhibit at the World Expo in South Korea. Tell a little of your experience.

With the theme Living Ocean and Coast, it was a major event that went for four months and involved many countries and millions of visitors. It gave me, and my Timorese colleagues, the opportunity to talk about Timor’s culture, history and environment, and to explain how we interact with the living ocean and the coast. I also learnt how other countries interact with the ocean and care for their coastlines.

What interests you apart from your work?

I like hanging out with friends, sharing experiences and getting to know more people. I like to travel to other countries and discover what is out there.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about undertaking a Bachelor of Environmental Science?

There are significant environmental issues around the world and a great need for people with the sort of knowledge and skills that can be acquired through a Bachelor of Environmental Science. There are many people who seem unaware of what damages the environment, or of the long-term consequences of some present-day behaviours. An environmental science degree will give a graduate a deeper knowledge of the importance of the environment, how much humanity relies on the earth’s resources. Environmental scientists must share their knowledge to communities and help minimise environmental problems.

What is the best advice you have received and who offered it?

Two West Australian academics suggested I apply to study Environmental Science at Charles Darwin University. That was very good advice. CDU runs a strong environmental studies program and the research it carries out in this discipline extends beyond the NT border, to places like Timor-Leste.

Who or what inspires you?

My mum has been a big inspiration in my life. After my father went missing in the 1983 invasion, my mother raised me and my five siblings by herself. She encouraged us to complete our education, to work hard to achieve what we wished for, and to do the best we can. She has been a mother, father, friend, good listener, and was the backbone of our family.