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International Women’s Day scholarship celebrates three amazing students


Content Team
7 March 2023

Three outstanding Southern Cross students have been awarded an International Women’s Day (IWD) scholarship. This year the theme of IWD is Embrace Equity.

Three women in a composite photographIWD scholarship recipients clockwise from L: Christina Langley, Olivia Dalaf and Shayleigh Walker-Jones


From the Gold Coast campus, biomedical science student Olivia Dalaf impressed the judges with her determination to overcome the odds and to fulfil a dream of becoming the first in her family to complete a university degree. Born in Syria, Olivia’s family fled to Iraq before coming to Australia as refugees in 2017. She learnt English in just six months and completed Years 11 and 12 despite the severe interruption of most of her junior high school schooling.

“My dream is to become a forensic science technician and to help people find justice and bring peace.

“This scholarship has given me a chance to focus more on my studies, not worrying about financial restriction, and working hard while studying full-time. I am proud to be a strong and confident woman and I greatly appreciate this help from all the other strong and independent women,” said Olivia.

PhD candidate from the Coffs Harbour campus Shayleigh Walker-Jones said she was equally thrilled to be a scholarship recipient. Shayleigh’s research investigates vaccine decision-making and especially pregnant women's responses to COVID-19 vaccination in Northern NSW.

I was raised by a single mother and am the first and only person in my family to attend university. Pregnant women and their developing babies are disproportionately at risk of harm from contracting COVID-19 and vaccine hesitancy is sometimes seen as a deficit rather than a social-psychological response among community members. I hope my research can inform government and health organisations about women's responses in regional-Northern NSW and provide insight about that relationship,” said Shayleigh.

“International Women's Day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate our history, unity and relentless pursuits for equality, recognition and access to opportunity.”

A PhD candidate from the Lismore campus who is working to restore degraded sections of the Great Barrier Reef was the third successful recipient this year. Christina Langley studies at Southern Cross University under the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program, the world's largest reef restoration program. She has dedicated her studies to understanding the threats facing the reef and being part of the solution to saving it, including restoration efforts to give baby corals the best chance of survival.

“Since I first came to Australia from Denmark seven years ago, I have dived all over the Great Barrier Reef, seeing firsthand how the reefs have changed, from devastating Crown of Thorns outbreaks to mass coral bleaching events extending to the far most reefs, and I have seen recovery and how the method of delivering coral babies to degraded reefs can restore breeding populations.

“I'm grateful for being able to follow my dreams and thank the incredible women who have paved the way, inspired me, and made me believe I could. Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams. Together let's lift each other up, help realise our potential, and celebrate each other's achievements along the way,” said Christina.

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