Australia Awards alumnus Dr Ibrahim Zuhuree credits Australia Awards for influencing him to become an agent of change and instilling in him the knowledge and expertise to make a difference in the local community in the Maldives.
Born in Holhudhoo, one of the inhabited islands of the Maldives’
Noonu Atoll, Zuhuree began his career as a secondary teacher in the outer atolls. While working as a teacher, Zuhuree was selected for an Australian Awards Scholarship in 2002 to complete his first-degree Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Western Australia in Perth.
While studying in Perth during his BSc, he also took the opportunity to work on two projects in the academic and the private sector. He appreciated the first-hand experience he gained working in Australia. After returning from his studies in 2005, Zuhuree continued to teach, heading the Physics Department of Dharumavantha School, one of the leading public schools offering secondary education in the capital island, Male, at the time. In 2006, Zuhuree changed his career, joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives and serving in several key positions, one of them being the Maldives Director at the Secretariat of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
The same year, he received another Australia Awards Scholarship to complete a Master of Science (MSc) in Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, Adelaide. Zuhuree considers himself extremely fortunate to have received an Australia Awards Scholarship for a second time to complete his studies.
Recalling his time in Australia, Zuhuree says he took every opportunity to travel and experience Australia. “Australians are warm and friendly. I received plenty of help from the University to settle down, and Australians were always willing to help. My family found both Perth and Adelaide good cities to live in and enjoy life in’’, he recalls.
Zuhuree’s Australia Awards Scholarships have helped boost his career in several ways.
“Studying in Australia provided me with crucial analytical skills required to face new challenges in the world today” says Zuhuree.
After returning from his second Australia Awards Scholarship, Zuhuree was promoted to Assistant Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Later, he went on to head the Regional Cooperation department at the Ministry, followed by a posting at the SAARC Secretariat in Nepal. Currently, he serves as the Secretary-General of the Maldives Civil Service Commission, where he oversees the day-to-day functioning of the Commission’s Secretariat, provides policy advice, develops strategic directions, and manages the monitoring and evaluation of the Commission’s activities.
Furthermore, Zuhuree believes his experiences at Australian Universities have expanded his horizons and taught him the importance of academic research and the use of quantitative methods to help inform the decision-making process. His experiences studying in Australia also led him to pursue his PhD in advanced policy studies, focusing on tourism economics, at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, Japan.
“The world today demands new sets of research-oriented academic learning to acquire qualities, competencies, and skills to become a manager or a policymaker. My experience at the Ministry and the SAARC Secretariat provided the opportunity to apply those skills to policy formulation and implementation”. He states that his academic background from his Australia Awards Scholarships was what drove him to move from Foreign Service to the Maldives Civil Service Commission. After working for the Government for a few more years, Zuhuree has plans to consider a career in the private sector.
“I am thankful to be among the many Australia Awards alumni working towards the development of the Maldives’’ says Zuhuree, “I believe that Australia Awards truly is playing a vital role in this country’s development”.
During his spare time, Zuhuree is dedicated to volunteering; this includes implementing projects and preparing project proposals for Community Based Organisations. He says he acquired the exposure and skills to effectively carry out tasks of this nature thanks to two projects he undertook with NGOs during his studies in Adelaide.
In terms of voluntary work, Zuhree was actively involved in managing several vocational training programs focused on youth across five atolls, upon returning from Australia. More recently, he has prepared and submitted a project proposal for ‘Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects’ in the Maldives. The purpose of the project is to improve the existing infrastructure, machinery, and methods of waste management in the Island Communities. He was also a part of an initiative with national NGOs and relevant Ministries, designed for the elderly in the Maldives, called ‘Ground Golf’. The initiative promotes healthy lifestyles through the provision of outdoor recreational activity opportunities for the elderly to enjoy with family and friends.
Grateful for his Australia Awards experiences, Zuhuree encourages others to apply for a Scholarship. He also encourages new recipients to obtain work experience in both academic and professional spheres while in Australia, and recommends they build in time to “enjoy the cultural experiences, tastes and sounds offered by Australia’’.