From Baucau to Battambang

Friday, 12 June 2015

Justine Roberts Justine Roberts with Deputy Head of School Rose McMaster and a Doctor at the Svay Por Health Centre in Battambang.

Scholarship winner Justine Roberts shares her experience of overseas placement to develop her leadership skills and contribute to communities in Timor and Cambodia.

A childhood book about people from all around the world with shared needs in spite of difficult cultures inspired me to travel. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of the countries I visited and do what I could to be of service.

This led me on a personal journey from Baucau to Battambang.

Baucau is the second-largest city in Timor-Leste with a population of only 16,000, and lies on the eastern side of the country. As a Bachelor of Nursing (Practice Leadership) student, I had the opportunity to take my community engagement placement abroad through ACU’s Train the Trainer program.

The program delivers education designed to empower local healthcare workers and village volunteers. They learn about basic primary care as it relates to the specific needs of the Timorese.

Visits to the clinics and orphanages where our participants worked had the biggest impact on me both professionally and personally. Not only are the Timorese compromised by a lack of education and poor living standards, but they are also exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases, leprosy and various other conditions daily.

This journey was a transformative experience, as I was ignorant of both local and national issues before my immersion in the Timorese culture.

My undergraduate training equipped me to work with others and provide opportunities for them that we take for granted at home. I wanted to explore more, learn more and do more in other developing countries.

My journey of learning next took me to the bustling province of Battambang, on the north-west side of Cambodia, which has a population of 1,040,000.

The 10 ACU students were there to help build the health capacity of the Battambang community. With my experience in Timor-Leste, I was selected to be a student leader on this clinical placement for nursing and paramedic students.

Clinical placement honed my leadership skills. As well as ensuring the students were working effectively as a team and were familiar with cultural etiquette, I also liaised with doctors and nurses through interpreters.

Before leaving Australia we raised funds for the trip. We were able to present the Svay Por Health Centre in Battambang pharmaceuticals and other clinical supplies that we had brought with us or purchased locally.

Local nursing practices are vastly different from Australian standards, which was both an eye-opener and a valuable experience for all the ACU students.

Both journeys affected me professionally and personally - experiences for which I am grateful. The people I have met on these journeys have influenced my world view and reinforced my desire to continue studying, to become a leader in my field and ultimately to benefit others.

I am an active ambassador for studying abroad and highly recommend short-term overseas placement to aid personal growth and professional development.

Justine’s commitment to her work and study is exemplary. In her final year she is raising a young family, commutes from the central coast of NSW to ACU’s North Sydney Campus, holds a part-time job in an aged care facility, and has maintained an impressive academic record.

Recipient of several awards last year, Justine was awarded the inaugural Mary Curran Scholarship which she received at a ceremony in North Sydney.

More than 60 students have received scholarships at ceremonies on each ACU campus in the last month.

Justine plans to be among the 94 per cent of ACU Nursing students who are employed upon graduation when she finishes at the end of the year. She has worked since she was 17 in a permanent part-time role and is looking to bring her skills and experience to a full-time position.

Find out more about ACU scholarships and bursaries and ACU’s Train the Trainer and Barefoot Nurses programs in Timor-Leste.