Case Study: Celebrating Excellence Through Story – Study NSW

Partner: Study NSW 

What makes this project special 

Despite the pandemic, more than 260,000 international students still enrolled in education courses across New South Wales (NSW) in 2020. Be it through Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses, universities, scholarships, schools, study tours or exchange programs, international students came to learn at some of the most well-regarded educational institutions in the world, adding to the state’s vibrancy, diversity and dynamism during a challenging time.

A bird’s eye view

  • WHAT: 6 x interview-style short films showcasing Study NSW participants
  • WHY: To celebrate excellence, promote harmony and connection
  • WHEN: Late 2021
  • WHO: Student leaders, education providers, businesses, and community groups 
  • THE RESULTS: Heartfelt stories that conveyed student experiences with authenticity and hopefulness; greater connection; increased storytelling and story listening skills

The background – for those who want to dive a little deeper

Study NSW’s International Student Awards recognise international students and organisations who have championed campus multiculturalism, driven environmental initiatives, promoted health and wellbeing, and supported students with food and essential items. Many alumni from the program go on to become great ambassadors for NSW as future leaders and advocates for trade, diplomacy and research links. 

Across four categories, high-achieving students are nominated for these Awards, as well as high impact initiatives from education providers, businesses and community groups who are supporting international students under the NSW International Student Community Engagement Awards. 

Showcasing the work of organisations like Addison Road Community Organisation, who moved quickly at the onset of the pandemic to help vulnerable students and migrants access nutritious food and provide a support network to lean on, through to Ho Yin (Joshua) Wan from Hong Kong, who balanced his physiotherapy studies at the University of Sydney with dedicating time to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those around him, particularly international students. These Awards bring otherwise invisible and unrecognised contributions into the light.


The challenge

Connecting with community and establishing valuable and rewarding relationships has never been more challenging, or more needed, than over the past few years. These Awards tell those stories to:

  • Raise awareness of and promote the Investment NSW and Study NSW brands;
  • Showcase NSW and its regions as a study destination for international students;
  • Highlight the diversity and resilience of winners and finalists;
  • Feature high achieving and deserving contributors across the Education sector; 

The process

Alongside Award category finalists, we co-created six short documentary, interview-style films designed to convey student stories and showcase the value of the program to the NSW community, as well as the opportunities available through Study NSW.

All created during and post-COVID lockdowns, which ground our full service film production to a halt, we managed to shoot on location interviews and overlay film from around Sydney and regional NSW for the Winner’s Videos. 

Despite a tight timeframe and many logistical challenges, we’re sure you’ll agree that the resulting stories are beautiful and heartwarming. Winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney during November, 2021.

Phaeng Xaphokham from Laos won the Vocational Education and Training (VET) award for his work with the National Environment Centre in Albury

What emerged – the key outcomes

  1. Authentic, engaging stories that inspire and invite new students to the program, embedding a culture of storytelling in the process (see: Student Stories – Study NSW).
  2. High levels of trust thanks to a thorough briefing process and close working relationship with the client, which resulted in efficiency and cohesion throughout the project and high quality story ‘artefacts’.
  3. Strong sense of connection and empathy amongst the alumni and supporting sectors through this challenging time.

“These are individuals who put their community’s needs ahead of their own and who have shown leadership and courage to overcome all the challenges of 2021.” – Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney and Minister for Trade and Industry Stuart Ayres (Source: Study NSW)

WATCH: Winning videos from Study NSW

Could this work for your organisation or sector?

We love the challenge of finding a story, even in the unlikeliest of places. Please get in touch to see what’s possible with a series of Story Listening Workshops for your organisation or sector. 

NEXT: Scholars Leading Through Story – Australia Awards