A woman wearing a green shirt and namebadge stands in front of a lectern with her hands placed in front of her. A projector screen is in the background.

2022 Humanitarian Leader Annual Edition Launch. Deakin Downtown. 29 November 2022 Melbourne Australia

“The structure of the MHA is such that I have been able to successfully make so many connections with people from different NGOs, aid organisations and academia, all of whom have been a great source of learning about new opportunities in the humanitarian sector, including jobs and internships,” Simran says.

The MHA has provided me critical understanding of the fundamentals of working in the humanitarian sector, and although I am currently working in public health research, I feel confident that I will be ready to implement my learnings in the humanitarian sector when I make the move to it.”

Simran is originally from Chandigarh, in Punjab, India, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Social Sciences at Punjab University. The MHA at Deakin University was an attractive option as it meant Simran could obtain a work visa after two years of study in Australia.

“Deakin’s Burwood was a wonderful campus with all the facilities that an international student requires to commit fully to their course,” Simran says.

“Overall, the library and campus facilities were very conducive to learning.”

Like many students, Simran rates the disaster simulation (AHA722 Applied Humanitarian Assistance: From Theory to Practice) as the highlight of the course. In this core module, students are put through their paces in a simulated disaster response over the course of a week at Burwood Campus.

“It was a very good bonding experience with the other students and I really developed my skills in that week,” Simran says.

“Being given a disaster scenario and having 10 minutes to make a decision really puts your skills and knowledge to the test.”

Simran says she also values the networking opportunities embedded in the course, including talks with staff from various INGOs including Australian Red Cross, Care Australia, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision.

For her research project, Simran opted to complete a Minor Thesis in collaboration with the CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness at Geelong. The CSIRO was commissioned by the Federal Government’s Department of Health to conduct a national Poliovirus Potentially Infectious Materials (PIM) Containment survey, and Simran’s thesis focused on the challenges of executing such public health surveys and how those challenges are exacerbated in humanitarian situations.

In January 2021, after completing all MHA units, Simran then gained work as a Research Assistant on a project on long COVID, being led jointly by Deakin University (School of Medicine), CSIRO and Barwon Health.

This then led to a role working with The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity as a Project Officer, focusing on point-of-care public health and STI projects.

“I started working in public health when COVID first hit so I felt like I was contributing to something important,” Simran says.

Working in public health, I’m gaining skills and experience in project management which I will take with me when I transition to the humanitarian sector in the future.”

Since graduating, Simran has maintained a strong connection with the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (which delivers the MHA in partnership with Deakin University). She has recently authored a working paper for the Humanitarian Leader on COVID-19 vaccine inequity, and spoken at the launch of the Humanitarian Leader 2022 Annual Edition.

Find out more about the Masters of Humanitarian Assistance.