Australia Awards funding the first audiologist of Samoa

15 February 2024

For 30 years, The University of Queensland (UQ) has worked to upskill and empower future global leaders through the Australia Awards Scholarship (AAS). 

The government-funded program, one of the most prestigious and generous scholarships in Australia for international students, exists to promote prosperity, reduce poverty, and enhance political stability.

Sophia Auro Leota
Sophia Auro Leota. Image: Jenny Cuerel.

Through the AAS, Master of Audiology Studies student and mother of 6, Sophia Auro Leota, will become the first Samoan audiologist in her island country when she returns home. Currently, the only audiologists are one Australian and one Tongan. 

“I haven’t studied for over 6 years, so needed the Introduction of Academic Program to prepare me properly for an academic life at UQ,” Sophia said.

“I arrived earlier than other international students to participate in the four-week academic intensive learning referencing, how to outline a program, planning, and academic writing, which was a wakeup call!

“I didn’t want to miss out on this incredible opportunity, so I moved to Australia with my family back home helping my youngest child finish high school this year.

“After qualifying, I hope to return home and become a role model for young women, and I want to be a voice of this program.”

Sophia is all about service and wanting to give back to her community.

After completing a Bachelor of Arts (in early childhood), she undertook training at the National University of Samoa in special needs education. This led to an interest in children who are deaf. She became a teacher for one year signing using Auslan, which she learnt from an Australian volunteer.

“The deaf adolescents where the ones who taught me proper signing, like how to not use prepositions to communicate more quickly,” Sophia said.

“As an audiologist in Samoa, there will be no barriers for parents who come to get treatment for their deaf child, because I can communicate on another level in both their mother tongue and Auslan.”

From teaching children with special needs to audiology, Sophia’s disability advocacy and qualifications will make her a leader in her field driving positive change in Samoa and beyond.

Australia Awards graduation ceremony with Sophia in the group photograph holding up her certificate
Sophia Auro Leota third from right (backrow) at Australia Awards Introduction of Academic Program (IAP) ceremony. Image: Jenny Cuerel. 

Semester 1 2024 IAP students at UQ fast facts
  • 73 participants from 23 countries: from Botswana to Myanmar and the Pacific Islands
  • UQ conducts IAP courses twice a year (January and June)
  • To date, over 1,500 Australia Awards students have completed IAPs at UQ.

To find out more about Australia Awards programs, contact Johan Arnberg (Senior Manager, Global Sponsorship and Mobility),

Photo caption (clockwise): Ben Bawden (Study Queensland), Navuaku Gavidi, Tyrone Vilmos Deiye, Auomanu Catherine Alofa Uili, Sonata Havana Vuki Takeifanga, Giovanni Paolo Selonds Misinale, Petra Urahora, Sophia Auro Leota, Filimoni Tuiteci, Leti Finau, Bernadette Leahy, Suyeshna Rakshita Varman, Anita Susan Alex, Anushka Cook, Nona Susanti Diya, Johan Arnberg.