New Colombo Plan scholars bound for Indo-Pacific

6 December 2023

Six UQ undergraduates will travel overseas in 2024 after being awarded prestigious scholarships under the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP).

The high-achieving students will travel to Singapore, Hong Kong, New Caledonia, and Fiji as part of the government’s flagship initiative to boost ties with the Indo-Pacific region.

The 2024 NCP round awarded scholarships to 150 undergraduate students throughout Australia to support up to 19 months of study, internships, mentorships, and language training. Scholarships are available to universities in 40 locations across the Indo-Pacific.

Two UQ students were also the top-ranked candidates for their host country and awarded the prestigious title of Fellow. Bachelor of Arts student Liam Lyttle was named as the inaugural Pacific Fellow, while Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Science student Samantha Dash was selected as the Fellow for New Caledonia.

As an interdisciplinary artist, Liam chose Fiji’s University of the South Pacific (USP) to meet a broad cross-section of Pasifika scholars and have direct access to the Oceanic Centre for Arts and Culture (OCAC).

Liam Lyttle speaking at podium at the NCP awards ceremony
Liam Lyttle, NCP Scholar and Pacific Fellow presenting at the NCP Awards Ceremony

“Founded by the late, great, Epeli Hau'ofa, the OCAC allows artists from all over the Pacific to connect, collaborate, and hone their crafts. After learning about Hau'ofa and the institution in ANTH2020 last semester, I am incredibly excited to get to experience it for myself,” Liam said.

“I'm also excited to continue my work with UQ’s Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) research centre while in Fiji. The Centre has opened so many opportunities to other regional organisations that will allow me to meet and learn from influential practitioners.”

Liam has already had the opportunity to meet with the Fijian Deputy Prime Minister Biman Prasad, as well as Ajay Amrit, the Fijian High Commissioner to Australia, to discuss a more deeply integrated Oceania.

A particular interest of mine, which I discussed with the Fijian Deputy Prime Minister, is establishing an official exchange agreement between UQ and USP. The Deputy Prime Minister is a USP and UQ alumni, as well as being a former dean at USP," Liam said.

“I would love for more students from both universities to be able to experience their counterparts — USP students have so much to offer UQ and vice-versa,” he said.

Samantha chose Australia's closest neighbour, New Caledonia, to immerse herself in French language and meet new people in the classroom and on the sports field. 

"I hope to create strong relationships with students at the Université de la Nouvelle Calédonie through studies in economics and through football (soccer) games and water sports (learning wind foiling), which are very popular in New Caledonia," Samantha said. 

"Upon my return to Australia, I hope to be able to communicate the perspectives of some of our closest neighbours and share innovative ideas for combatting the challenges we as island nations will face into the future, such as climate change."

Samantha Dash, NCP Scholar and Fellow for New Caledonia at the NCP Ceremony
Samantha Dash, NCP Scholar and Fellow for New Caledonia at the NCP Ceremony

UQ Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global Partnerships) Mr Brett Lovegrove said the students have chosen locations with rich cultural heritages and bourgeoning industry, which will lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia and deepen personal and professional relationships.

“These students have been named among Australia’s most talented and, in recognition of their vision and ambition, are being offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live, study, and work with Australia’s closest neighbours as part of their university experience," he said.

“They join a global network of NCP alumni, which is playing a critical role in Australia's relationships within the Indo-Pacific.

“Our people-to-people links – our influential and diverse network of Australians with direct experience in the Indo-Pacific – will be the driving force in Australia's future prosperity and role as a major global player.”

The scholarships were officially announced at an awards ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra on 5 December.

In 2024, the NCP will celebrate its 10th anniversary and the achievements of the 45,000 alumni who have completed scholarships and mobility projects since the program commenced.

A record 16 awardees (10 per cent) from this year’s scholarship cohort are First Nations Australians and 12 per cent are ‘first in family’ to attend university. Twenty-two per cent of scholars speak a language other than English at home, 12 per cent have a disability, and 38 per cent of scholars are based in remote or regional Australia.

The connections and understanding these scholars will build during their program will enrich the engagement between Australia and our international partners and help shape the way the region collaborates with Australia.

Congratulations to the 2024 UQ NCP scholars
  • Milind Bordia (Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Master of Engineering) is studying at the National University of Singapore
  • Kimberely Climo (Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours)) is studying at the University of Hong Kong
  • Samantha Dash (Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Science) is studying at Universite de la Nouvelle-Caledonie
  • Liam Lyttle (Bachelor of Arts) is studying at the University of the South Pacific
  • Harold Shaw (Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)) is studying at Nanyang Technological University
  • Angus Watson (Bachelor of Humanities / Bachelor of Laws (Honours) is studying at the University of the South Pacific

2024 UQ New Colombo Plan scholars
2024 UQ New Colombo Plan scholars at the NCP Ceremony hosted at Parliament House in Canberra

Applications for the 2025 NCP Scholarship program will open in April 2024.

For more information and media enquiries please contact Katie Smith, Sponsored Mobility Project Officer, Global Partnerships +61 7 3346 9924 or