Forging a unique path: meet Nyadol Nyuon

Nyadol Nyuon OAM

Nyadol Nyuon OAM is one of the outstanding individuals recently awarded a  National Intelligence Community and National Security College Scholarship for Women.

Nyadol reflects on how her experience growing up in refugee camps has shaped her journey so far – from a lawyer and a writer, to taking the first step in her national security career.

Thank you for your time, Nyadol. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. I saw the law as a way of resolving some of the problems we faced.

What did you study for your undergraduate degree?

I have a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology) and a Juris Doctor (Law) from the University of Melbourne.

What first got you interested in the field of national security?

I have long had an interest in security generally, perhaps in response to being displaced by war. I once wanted to join the Australian Defence Force.

I become interested again more recently, as it appears to me that domestic anxieties can also raise national security questions.

For example, Australia is a multicultural, multiracial, and multi-religious society, and I have witnessed the tensions that can arise when grappling with national security, immigration, and multiculturalism. Challenges like these are brought forth by events like 9/11. This is not a new tension, the internment of Japanese Americans after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor is another historical example. What these challenges present, and want I find interesting, is how multicultural democracies balance national security issues in the twenty-first century. What tensions exist? How can those tensions be resolved without undermining democratic values? How these questions are resolved can be important, as I am learning in this degree, as pressure that exists within a country can be exploited and used against it.

Do you have any specific areas of interest?

A few too many.

In addition to the question of domestic relations and their national security implications, I’m also interested in the ways the legal system and the economy interact with national security. During my time as a lawyer, amendments to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 displayed the complex balance between the benefits of foreign investments and the fear that foreign investments may be used to gain access to control over assets or Australian organisations.
I am also interested in learning about national security threats beyond human intervention. The two areas I am most interested in are technology and climate change.

How do you think Australia is currently placed?

From my reading and learning so far, the future will be challenging and Australia needs to adapt. For example, the “three Cs” – China, counterterrorism and cyberspace, are argued to be the main concerns of intelligence chiefs.Australia,by virtue of its political ‘being’ as a liberal democracy, its geographical location, and the decline of its main ally’s strategic dominances, faces all these risks more closely and urgently than other countries. The interplay of these matters, as observed by the Director General of Australia Secret Intelligence Service, means the “future will likely be less advantageous to Australia” and (as observed by someone else) “more uncertain than at any time since 1942”.

Are there any courses or themes you have particularly enjoyed learning about so far while studying the Master of National Security Policy?

I am just at the beginning – about to complete my first course in the degree. So far, I am really enjoying it. I am learning a lot, questioning many of my assumptions, and humbled by the complexities of national security matters.

Do you have any advice for women who are considering applying for the National Intelligence Community and National Security College Scholarship for Women?

Apply. National security is more fascinating and interesting than I realised. I questioned whether I would be a good fit. I thought national security was for certain kinds of people – like James Bond. But really, it is probably for all people, as the issues touch on every aspect of society – political, social, and economic. I think the diversity of issues demands a diverse workforce.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I do not know. I hope to find a role in the national security community in the future. This degree is a good start to figuring out what would be a good fit, and what the combination of my cultural background, and experience as a lawyer, and writer, can contribute.

All the best with your studies, Nyadol. And thanks for your time!

Interested in applying for the National Intelligence Community and National Security College Scholarship for Women? Expressions of interest can be sent to

The views expressed in this interview are those of the participant, and not of any organisation with which they are affiliated, or of the ANU National Security College.
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Updated:  16 June 2024/Responsible Officer:  Head of College, National Security College/Page Contact:  Web administrator