$4.7 million to be awarded in scholarships in 2021

A psychologist improving mental health for rural Australians, a scientist investigating new antibiotic drug leads, and a student aspiring to use digital storytelling to support disadvantaged communities are among a remarkable group of Australians today recognised by Westpac Scholars Trust.

Each year, the Trust awards up to 100 scholarships to promising scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and ambitious thinkers who are determined to find creative new ways to solve problems facing our communities.

Since its inception, the Trust has supported more than 470 Scholars, enabling them to make significant advances in their fields – like Associate Professor Nick Opie who has progressed human trials with a device that could allow prosthetics to be controlled entirely through the mind, or spider scientist Sam Nixon who is using spider venom to help protect Australia’s agricultural industry from parasites.

This year more than $4.7 million in scholarships will be awarded to the next cohort of outstanding Australians. Beyond financial support, each recipient will also undertake a bespoke leadership development program to help develop the skills and networks they need to reach their potential.

Among the 2021 recipients is Ed Johnson, a speech pathologist who provides allied health services to rural and remote communities through his social enterprise Umbo. Johnson says the program will enable him to continue providing support for those who need it most.

“Sadly, there are a number of regions in the bush that have little or no access to allied health services, and the support of Westpac Scholars Trust will give Umbo the chance to reach more of these communities.

“It means I can help these people in some small way to find their voice and spread the word that there really is support out there for them,” he said.

Susan Bannigan, CEO of Westpac Scholars Trust, said the opportunity to build strong leadership skills is a fundamental component of these scholarships.

“Westpac Scholars’ are chosen for their passion and potential to help solve important problems they care deeply about and have the potential to make a significant impact.

“We work closely with our university partners to deliver transformational programs that not only challenge the Scholars’ thinking, but also increases their access to new networks and opportunities,” she said.

Research from Westpac found that during the pandemic one in five (22%) young Australians invested in their personal development in order to pursue a passion project, while nearly two thirds (31%) did so in pursuit of a career change.

“Great ideas are often borne from challenging times, and over the last year many Australians have used this time to reflect on what’s most important to them – especially school leavers who are facing into new challenges and decisions about what will come next.

“As one of Australia’s largest education scholarship programs, the Trust affords a unique opportunity for those eager to turn their passion into their profession by supporting them through social initiatives or tertiary studies.”

Scholarships are awarded in partnership with Australian universities across five categories:

  • Research Fellowship: supporting early career researchers embarking on ground-breaking projects, co-funded by University partners;
  • Social Change Fellowship: helping established social entrepreneurs build their leadership capability and networks;
  • Future Leaders: post-graduate study for exceptional thinkers who have ambitious ideas;
  • Young Technologists: supporting undergraduates passionate about technology and its potential for good; and
  • Asian Exchange: an opportunity for undergraduates with a genuine interest in Asia and Australia’s success in the region.

Bannigan said the network and development opportunities extend well beyond the formal program, with every scholarship recipient becoming a lifelong member of the program’s alumni, the Westpac 100 Scholars Network (W100).

“For many Westpac Scholars, the W100 is the best part of the scholarship, with many forming lasting friendships and connections. It’s a trusted space for individuals to connect and collaborate, share ideas and support each other as they pursue their goals,” she added.

Growing by up to 100 Westpac Scholars every year, the W100 brings together people from all walks of life and provides lifelong access to professional development and inspiring networks. Engagement is led and driven by the Scholars, with the support of the Trust. 


Read more about the 2021 Westpac Scholars on the Scholars page of our site.