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Introducing our 2020 Volunteer and Community Spirit Award winners

Bank First is proud to sponsor two valuable awards for students at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE).

Our 2020 winners are two exceptional young women. 

The Bank First MGSE Volunteer Award is granted to celebrate a student’s voluntary contribution to the Graduate School and the wider University community. Examples include peer mentoring, volunteering at the VCE summer school and participation in societies and associations within the University.

The Bank First MGSE Community Spirit Award is granted to a student who is involved in a community minded program(s) that supports refugees, people from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or indigenous communities.

Komala Murugiah is the recipient of The Bank First MGSE Volunteer Award 2020.

 The Bank First MGSE Volunteer Award 2020 recipient Komala Murugiah

Komala graduated with a Master of Education (Research), with specialisations in Equity, Diversity, Social Change and Policy in a Global Context in July 2020.

Komala tells us that the award is helping her continue being an active member of the communities that she is part of at the University of Melbourne. “As an international graduate student in Melbourne from Singapore, receiving this award goes beyond supporting my endeavours”, she says. Komala adds that she finds the award affirmative, empowering and motivational as she pursues her academic goals.

Komala finds that her inclination to help others has helped her cultivate a sense of belonging and purpose. In particular, she shares that, “The sense of belonging and purpose animates my understanding of life experiences and provides me with insights into the development and complexities of social change first-hand.”

Her experience of the nature of social change, together with her respect for the value of education led her to pursue the specialisations of equity, diversity, social change and policy, as part of her Masters of Education program.

Komala believes that volunteering at the university has heightened her awareness of ongoing social issues which resonate her academic and professional aspirations. 

“My inclination to help has served as an internal compass which guides me to think about, and, work on projects which contribute to others.”

Komala is currently a team co-lead for Little Big Dreams, a multi-year community engagement initiative to raise awareness and create sustainable access to education in rural communities. At a village school in Nagarkot, Nepal, the team supports teachers with resourcing and also started a garden (pictured below) following an earthquake that destroyed an entire floor of classrooms. 

The Bank First MGSE Volunteer Award 2020 recipient Komala Murugiah Little Big Dreams in Nepal

Komala’s research at MGSE attempted to understand how national systems of education use global resources to develop policies for sustainable educational reform. At this juncture, she intends to continue with research-oriented work in the fields of Development and Education and is currently working as a research associate with the UNESCO Chair on Comparative Research on Cultural Diversity and Social Justice. 

Komala truly earned this award and her gratitude is obvious: “I would once again like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to you for granting me this award. It’s one that I appreciate deeply.”

Our other 2020 award winner is Seoyoung Ahn (Sienna), who receives The Bank First MGSE Community Spirit Award.

 The Bank First MGSE Community Spirit Award 2020 recipient Seoyoung Ahn (Sienna)

Sienna is studying for a Master of Teaching (Secondary) and says that the award has allowed her to focus on her studies while supporting communities in need. Particularly important at the moment, as Covid-19 has had a negative effect on Sienna’s income.

Despite her own financial circumstances, she intends to use some of the award to make a financial contribution to the homeless communities for which she volunteers. Every Saturday since 2016, Sienna volunteers for the “Street Family Chapel” program organised by the Salt & Light group to provide the homeless with basic necessities, shelter, refuge and importantly, genuine friendship through regular companionship.

Sienna is currently enrolled in the Master of Teaching (Secondary) and plans on graduating in December of 2020, following which she would like to pursue a career in the education sector as a Humanities and Language secondary teacher.

As an individual developing her teaching profession, her passion and philosophy strongly align with the well-being of all students and especially those who are disadvantaged.

She explains, “This means students associated with social, socio-economical, physical, emotional and other learning needs.”

As a Humanities teacher, she hopes to positively influence students’ growth into informed, responsible and active citizens who can contribute to the development of environmentally, economically sustainable and socially just world and find value in working for those in need.

We think the value of these two selfless young women is an inspiration to anyone involved in education.

We wish them both great success, as they continue to pursue their educations, careers and good work in the community.