Nuwan Peiris has already worked in development. He signed on for the MAAPD because he wants to change how things are done in that field.
Living in Malawi, he saw poverty firsthand: “I grew up in Malawi, which is one of the poorest countries in the world – top ten.”
While he and his friends were middle-class, they used to undertake small projects in orphanages and local schools. There was also the news, and the constant stream of headlines and images.
“You’re just thinking, the world has so much and it’s concentrated in the hands of so few,” Nuwan says.
“It doesn’t need to be that way. And once you help people out of poverty, they become contributing members of society and uplift everybody’s lives.
“You never know, he adds. “The next genius could be someone who doesn’t have opportunities.”
After doing his undergraduate studies in New York City, Nuwan returned to his birth country, Sri Lanka. He worked for a human rights organisation for a couple of years, then worked in an economic development program.
He emerged from the experience with great respect for development agencies and NGOs – but also with some cynicism.
“One thing about development is we often go and tell people what they need to improve their lives, or how their lives need to be better,” Nuwan explains.
“That’s why this degree is so great, because it’s giving you an insight into how you can make development more centred around the people you’re helping. Make them agents of their own change.”
Nuwan searched globally when he was considering where he would pursue further study. In the end, Canberra called.
“Sydney and Melbourne had very general development studies, which is fine,” he says. “I’m sure I would’ve learned things.”
“But this one – the title of the degree, the ‘participatory development’ part really caught me. I was like, ‘That is what development needs to be.’”
In addition to undertaking his Masters, Nuwan is a College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) student ambassador. He says that he enjoys having the opportunity to speak to potential students, put them at ease and answer all their questions.
“I didn’t get that chance in the sense that I didn’t get to visit the university in person,” Nuwan begins.
“But having that one-on-one face to face chat while you’re at the university yourself and being able to go, ‘We have all these facilities, let me show you one’ – that’s a great honour to be able to have.”