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Juliette François-Assonne - Mauritius

Course: Bachelor Degree
Institute: Monash University
Location: Melbourne, Victoria

When Juliette François-Assonne finished her BA in Humanities and Social Sciences at Monash University she had no intention of working in an office, let alone a bank.

“I’m a grass roots kind of person,” she declares. Counselling prisoners in Australia or driving no-nonsense projects such as ‘harm reduction’, a needle exchange programme aimed at reducing the transmission of HIV in her native Mauritius, are more her style.

As luck would have it, her job as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager at Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) Forward Foundation allows her that latitude. “The job wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” admits Francois-Assonne. “They wanted me to set up a strategy, to make them aware of what was really needed in the community. It was very grass roots!”

The lessons she learned at Monash come into play each day in her CSR work. “What interested me at Monash was the social aspect of the course, connecting psychology with society,” she explains. “I did a double major in psychology and sociology which teaches you that it’s all about understanding people and their environment and their family, it’s not just about giving out money. That training is absolutely fundamental to this job.”

Equally important, she thinks, is the ability to keep an open mind, not to be swayed by appearances.

With her guidance, the MCB Foundation supports a diverse range of CSR projects, including much needed after-school literacy classes for children as well as more gritty programmes such as the rehabilitation and reintegration of drug users and a campaign aimed at the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. It is, she says, a new wave of CSR but it’s in a bank!

François-Assonne credits the Monash lecturers with encouraging her to dream and to take chances.

“We were challenged to think outside the box,” she laughs, recalling a module on counselling in which she had to teach people to make sushi. It was this kind of unconventional take on a traditional subject that really struck a chord with her.

“Now I’m working in a bank where one of its core values is innovation and I’m already trained in that!”

François-Assonne is a passionate advocate for Australia and its education system, describing her Monash degree as “gold”. “When I left I realised the extent of the value of my degree,” she says, “I realised that your Australian degree can take you anywhere. “No matter what the sacrifices, it’s like a guarantee to success. People know what you‘re about; there’s a global recognition that you’re a professional,” she says.

“It has enabled me to travel and work on a national and an international level.”

She is quick to add, though, that for her studying in Australia was not just about the study, there was the social education aspect as well.

“Australia has given me not only an academic education but also my DNA to life itself,” she insists.

“It helped me not to be narrow-minded, to appreciate diversity. I learnt that there are so many different ways of looking at things, and that’s a tool I use daily.”

These are, she maintains, the exact sort of qualities she wants her two-year-old daughter to have, so she’s already contemplating an Australian education for her.

“Then there’s the history, the landscape: it’s clean and most amazing is the contrast between each state. You can find a bit of the whole world in this one country; the beaches, the desert, rainforests, snow,” she says. “You name it and Australia has it.”

Last updated: Tuesday, 11 August 2015 11:29:59 AM

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