Maria paves the way as a female leader of conservation law in Fiji

Maria was raised in her home country of Fiji with her eight siblings experiencing the highs and lows of what her country had to offer, not realising that later on it would be the inspiration for her professional pathway as an adult. Maria is a legal officer for the International Union of Conservation and Nature and has been for the past eight years, and an industry she has worked in for the past 17 years.

Motivated by the struggles in everyday life for her community, Maria is a true inspiration as a lawyer, as a mother and as a woman.  When asked what her mission in life is Maria answered it is to make sure she raises her children as good, loving, respectable beings that are kind, along with her professional goals of advancing the environmental law in the regions surrounding Fiji, wanting to aid and support them to further develop their own laws to support conservation.

Through the Australia Awards Scholarships, Maria studied her Masters of Fisheries Policies at the University of Wollongong for a year, and although facing hurdles she highly recommends the program, boasting that the support she received from the beginning of her acceptance into the scholarship to being pregnant and giving birth whilst studying was ‘unwavering’.

Maria was grateful for the way that Australia Awards had set out the program to create an alumni community before studying commenced, giving the awardees a family away from their families and an additional support group created during their time of orientation.

Maria acknowledged that even though she is a lawyer, she lacked a lot of confidence before the Australian Awards Scholarship program, correcting herself by saying, I believe, actually I know, that the program helped me find something within myself and allowed me to do things I thought I never would be able to do.

Completing her Masters with High Distinctions – and a new born baby! –  Maria returned to Fiji with her family full with confidence and a new belief system that she was worth everything she is and more. Upon her return she was so vocal in the work force that she became the president of the staff club. Maria volunteered to lead a project and develop a concept for the first round for the Australia Awards Women Leadership Initiative program, taking the lead in public speaking to inspire other women seeking to  truly believe in themselves and their capabilities.

Maria encourages everyone to apply for the program and hopes that they become as inspired as she did, prompting that, “If you do not succeed the first try, do not let that deter you from trying again! It’s a once in a life time opportunity with world class teaching and facilities and I would recommend anyone who is in the position to seize the opportunity to do so”.

For further information regarding Australia Awards Scholarships visit