When Sri Lankan-born Thilinika Wijesinghe graduates at Southern Cross University's Coffs Harbour campus tomorrow (20 June), it will be the culmination of experiences that span life-threatening, life-changing and life-affirming.
Thili will be among 170 excited and accomplished graduands on the day, her own milestone achieved after completing a PhD that combined education, science and drama to empower children and young people to seek answers on global issues – especially climate change.
Enlisting high school students from Sri Lanka and Australia, Thili’s project even includes a philosophical play script integrating all her research data and able to be adapted and staged anywhere in the world.
“High school is the ideal place for young people to grasp challenging concepts. Speculative drama makes it both fun and profound,” she said. “I had 14-15 year-olds staging productions that they had written with environmental themes and had designed using eco-friendly resources.”
The environment has always been close to Thili’s heart, inspired during a childhood spent among the rivers, forests and mountains of rural Sri Lanka. However, it was a moment of danger and tragedy – the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami – that proved cathartic in how she wanted to live her life and pursue her environmental passion.
Having attained a Bachelor of Journalism and English Literature from Bangalore University in India (2012), followed by a Master of Arts (International Relations) from the University of Colombo (2014), she went on to work in journalism and teaching. In each setting, an environmental focus was always top of mind. At the same time, Thili’s love of drama began to emerge as the basis of an intriguing new concept. Listen here to Thili talk about her studies on the SCU Buzz podcast.
“I have been in a number of productions in Sri Lanka and began thinking about how I might use drama to bring together all my experiences into a PhD with climate change at the centre,” she said.
“I scoured the world for supervisors who understood my ideas and goals, and found them in Professors Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles and Lexi Lasczik from the Faculty of Education at Southern Cross University. I could not have done this without them and I share my graduation with them, the students, my family and everyone at the University who supported me.”
The Coffs Harbour graduation ceremony begins at 11am on Tuesday, June 20. Among other highlights:
- the Chancellor’s Medal will be presented to Faculty of Health researcher Dr Scott Goddard, while the University Medal will be presented to Nell Tynan, who has completed a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts with Honours and the Associate Degree of Creative Writing at Southern Cross University.
- The occasional speaker will be young business phenomenon Stuart Cook, founding partner of corporate advisory firm TWIYO (This Is Your Oyster). For the past decade, Stuart and TWIYO have been working with, and investing in, early-stage companies across Australia and the US. TWIYO’s primary focus spans health and wellness, food sustainability and environmental technology.