Living large

02 September 2014

Meet Brenda Bastienne, someone who is using her Master of Public Policy from Crawford School of Public Policy to help her small island home, the Seychelles, educate and care for her fellow citizens.

Brenda Bastienne comes from a country with a population smaller than Canberra’s.

“There was no culture shock for me coming to Australia. When we had the Introductory Academic Program at Crawford School, and I met the other international students, they were all saying, ‘We come from big cities and Canberra is really tiny and there’s nothing to do here!’ But for me, it’s the reverse. I come from a small place, the Seychelles, with less than 100,000 people, so I get Canberra!”

Brenda says she decided to leave the Seychelles for Canberra after seeing an advertisement for AusAID-funded scholarships in the local newspaper.

“I was working in the policy and strategy division of the Ministry of Finance in the Seychelles, and I thought it would be good to have a degree in public policy, because my first degree was in the field of finance and economics. I wanted to link my study with my work more, and also have a bit of a political angle, so I applied for a Master of Public Policy at ANU.”

Brenda says public policy is a priority area for the government of the Seychelles, where they’re facing a number of policy challenges.

“Being a small state, it’s very difficult for the country to maintain its social welfare, health and education policies. Health and education are freely provided by the government, but where do you find the resources to sustain these policies?

“Also, with our small population, when we want to develop our sectors – schools, hospitals, hotels, tourism – you need manpower, so we have to rely a lot on foreign labour.”

She says the master’s program has been “really useful” in helping her develop approaches to these country-specific challenges.

“The course is not just about how the theories work, it’s about how I can put it into practice when I go back home. It’s really awesome.

“I got to choose the subjects that I wanted to do, focusing on trade, welfare and social policies. I found that it was really practical. Even though the main focus is on Australia, the lecturers make you see how you can use it in a world context, or context of a developing country.

“Being at Crawford School and ANU you get the opportunity to work with people who are very experienced, and who work in the public sector here. Even though you come from a developing country, you’re getting a chance to meet and interact with these people and see how things can be done differently, so it’s been really helpful.”

Brenda says she hasn’t had any difficulties making new friends in Canberra, since “being the only person here from your country, you have to make friends!”, but she does have one complaint about Australia’s capital: it’s a lot colder than home.

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