Exploring the Australian frontier: How I took my passion for higher education beyond Sri Lanka 

Passion and purpose. This is what makes Nilusha Gallage a committed educator. After 15 years of work in higher education, her drive to improve the student learning experience has never been greater. Following a move from Sri Lanka to Australia, she’s now in an exciting new position – where she can grow even more as an academic and researcher.  

We spoke with Nilusha to discuss her relocation abroad and how she took control of her career. She offers advice to anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps.

I understand you had a stable career at home. So what made you want to go to Australia?

Great question! In one word? Growth. There were many things pushing me to move aboard, but the biggest was that I wanted to control my personal and professional development.

At the time, I was working as a senior lecturer for a leading higher education institution in Sri Lanka. I tried building my career there, but sadly, the opportunities didn’t exist for me. This is a challenge many people face back home.

After 11 years, I flew to Australia in 2019 to explore a new landscape.

Finally, I felt like I could spread my wings. It was great to be recognised for my talent and potential.

Did you struggle to find your feet after the move?

It wasn’t as difficult as people make it sound. When I first came to Melbourne, I only knew my two supervisors from Swinburne University.

But I soon found my feet and formed a network of amazing people.

Today, I have a flourishing support group. And I couldn’t be more thankful. Everyone I’ve met has been willing to help me in some way – even total strangers. It’s been heartwarming.

Was it difficult continuing your academic career in Australia?

I wouldn’t say it was difficult. But I definitely had to make a fresh start. This is common for many people who move from developing countries.

In the first year of my PhD, I focused primarily on research and writing to build momentum. After six months and my pre-confirmation milestone, I began working for an agency that did research for private companies and government bodies in Australia. This was an interesting experience that helped me to learn so much about the country quickly.

The following year, in 2020, I taught with Swinburne University. Yet that came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and changed life as we know it. I shifted focus back to my PhD and ended up publishing a book chapter.

In 2021 during the pandemic, I started teaching online MBA courses with RMIT University and I was glad to be back lecturing face-to-face last year. Many perceive that when you come to Australia, you have to end up taking random casual jobs. I believe that if you focus and try securing the work you want, you can.

Congratulations on winning a Learning and Teaching award from RMIT University. Could you tell us more about this recognition in Australia?

I am humbled to be recognised for my work in the higher education space. In 2021, I was recognised as an ‘Emerging Star’ by RMIT in my first year facilitating MBA courses online. Last year, in 2022, I was nominated for two Learning and Teaching awards in my debut year teaching with RMIT University. I ended up receiving the Learning and Teaching ‘Rising Star’ Award and high commendation for the Learning and Teaching ‘Impact Award’, from RMIT, one of the leading universities in Australia. I was awarded this because of my teaching and tutoring work within the College of Business and Law (CoBL).

The RMIT CoBL Learning and Teaching ‘Rising Star’ Award recognised my contribution to improving student learning. I was nominated by my program manager, fellow academics and course coordinators for this award – which makes it truly special to me, particularly because it was debut year working for the university.

Last but not least, I was honored with a high commendation for the CoBL Learning and Teaching ‘Impact Award’. This is student-nominated and focuses on individual, team or program-level approaches that significantly impact the learning experience. Again, I couldn’t be prouder for being recognised for my work by staff and students.

The selection was based on nominations from staff and students in Australia and Vietnam. This year RMIT CoBL recognised 21 staff for their incredible contribution to Learning and Teaching.

Do you have advice for other educators like you in Sri Lanka?

Yes, I certainly do. Working in higher education is rewarding. You get to support people and pave the way for how we do things in the future. During my work in Sri Lanka, many students approached me and shared their aspirations of becoming an educator.

But it calls for passion and purpose. You must want to genuinely create a positive change for your students.

My advice to you? If doors back home in Sri Lanka are closed, don’t waste time knocking on them. Look for bigger, better and more beautiful ones. Travel abroad if you have to. And see what’s out there.

I promise that with enough commitment and hard work, life-changing opportunities will come your way.

මෙල්බන් සාප්පු සංකීර්ණයක පිහි ඇනුමකට බාල වයස්කරුවන් දෙදෙනෙකු අල්ලයි

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අම්බානිගේ පුතාට ලැබෙන ඩොලර් මිලියන 80ක මංගල තෑග්ග

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