Learning in the field

Brendan Garrett attended field classes in Timor-Leste thanks to the Alan Gilbert Mobility Scholarship.

After finishing high school in Adelaide, Brendan Garrett spent six years travelling around the world, living in some of the world’s richest and poorest countries. He volunteered and worked at tourist destinations and farms in the UK, Canada and South America. The experience was life-changing.

“Travelling broadened my horizons and I learned so much about the world. I saw the vast amount of inequality that existed and how lucky and privileged I was, and I wanted to use my position to have a positive influence on the world,” he said.

On returning home, Brendan completed a degree in International Development. But the travelling inspired him to move and enrol in a Master of Environment degree at the University of Melbourne. He was interested in the interaction between social and ecological systems and was keen to explore how people’s living standards could be improved without harming the environment.

Smiling Brendan
Brendan Garrett at the University of Melbourne

It was such a privilege to be able to learn in situ and I hope to be able to use the knowledge that I’ve gained and the networks that I’ve made in a way that can benefit the Timorese.

Last year, Brendan had the opportunity to pursue his interests further after being awarded an Alan Gilbert Mobility Scholarship. He set off for Timor-Leste to attend field classes run on the University’s behalf, and to explore the benefits and limitations of ecotourism developments.

“Even though Timor-Leste is so close to Australia, I knew nothing about it and I wanted to know more but it was so expensive to get there,” Brendan said.

The scholarship made the trip possible.

“I found while ecotourism is only a small part of a greater livelihood picture, if done in a way that is community-led and managed with deep eco-tourism ideals, it has the potential to contribute to greater socio-ecological resilience and reduce poverty,” he said.

“I’d like to dearly thank the donors for the Alan Gilbert Scholarship, for allowing me to broaden my horizons and engage with different cultures. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to be a recipient.”

Two tribesman

Since it was established in 2010, many alumni and staff have generously given to the Alan Gilbert Mobility Scholarship fund, and 17 students have benefited from Professor Gilbert’s passion for internationalisation. Professor Gilbert was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne from 1996-2004. The scholarship assists students with meeting the costs involved in undertaking study at an overseas institution.

Brendan has since graduated with his Master degree, and is now a Research Assistant with the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences at the University. He hopes to continue in his research role at the University and is considering starting his own business in social enterprise, workers’ cooperatives and participatory development.

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