Australia Awards – Cambodia

Mrs So Phina, Researcher, Cambodian Development Research Institute
Updated: 2013

Helping girls achieve their potential

Australia Awards graduate and researcher with the Cambodian Development Research Institute (CDRI), Cambodia’s leading independent development policy research institute, Mrs So Phina, is currently undertaking research into child domestic labour.

“My research right now advocates for a better life for domestic and child domestic workers”, Mrs So Phina said. “And my current role relies a lot on the skills I learned from my Australian University studies.”

After applying many times, she was eventually successful in gaining a two-year scholarship to complete her Master’s in Social Work at RMIT – the Royal Melbourne Institute  of Technology.

“So I went to Australia in 2011 and came back in late-2012. Before coming to Australia I worked with various NGOs who focussed on child rights, counselling, and programs that protect children from abuse and trafficking.”

Born and raised in Pursat Province – about 200 kilometres from Phnom Penh – she completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, a leading university in Cambodia and volunteered in her spare time at the  Centre for Child Mental Health in Ta Khmao, Kandal Province. Mrs Phina said that Cambodia needs people with a better education, and to empower women and girls  to reach their highest potential.

Mrs So Phina admits she was quite confused when she first applied for an Australia Award, because she had no idea what Australia would look like, or what sort of support she could expect to find in the community. Nevertheless, with motivation, and encouragement and success stories from her friends, she decided to apply for a scholarship in Australia.

“I had done some comparisons between Queensland, and Melbourne and Adelaide and asked questions of people who had lived there before, so that I could make a very good decision… All the same, it was challenging.”

Mrs So Phina, whose husband and two young children joined her in Australia after six months, still has good connections with her tutors, Australian friends, and Cambodian students still in Australia completing their Masters, or PhD studies.

“It is important for potential Australia Award applicants to know just how very, very helpful Australian tutors and lecturers are. I was told that I must speak to them when struggling with any subjects, or need their help, so I approached them, and it really worked. They helped me a lot.”