Flinders University Disability and Developmental Education students have been sharing their own knowledge of disability while learning about local disability services in Timor-Leste.
The ten students have been in Dili for an International Student Mobility Project with Associate Professor Caroline Ellison and June Alexander from Flinders’ Disability and Community Inclusion Unit, and Mr Monrique Reis, an Australia Award Scholarship Awardee.
They are volunteering with Ismara Alma, a Catholic School and Orphanage run by the Alma Sisters, and Klibur Domin, an NGO in Tibur which provides live in and outreach rehabilitation and health care for people with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, renal failure and intellectual and physical disability.
During their visit they will also work with project participants from the National University of East Timor, the country’s Ministry of Social Solidarity, and several disability organisations.
The initiative is a key part of efforts to immerse students in unique settings outside of their normal classroom for practicum and clinical experience, and will provide them with invaluable experience in cross cultural communication.
Associate Professor Ellison said it was a unique opportunity for them to develop cross-cultural skills to significantly improve their impact as health professionals in Australia.
“With the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities being ratified early in Australia, it is imperative for students to gain some international understanding of disability policy developments, planning and implementation of quality service provision in a context other than Australia,” she said.
“This experience gives us the opportunity to work with students as peers and to showcase what a Flinders education can offer not only in technical skills, but in terms of humanity and social justice.
“This project has been a win-win for everyone involved. It helps our Timorese friends living with disability, our Timorese colleagues, the broader Timorese community; and also helps us as individuals and as a broader society.
“Those who have these experiences outside Australia, be they staff or student, return richer and better professionals and richer and better people”.
Student Sami Hogan said the experience had been “amazing”, while Mackayla Creaser said the experience had been life-changing.
“Not only have we been fortunate enough to be submersed into a different culture, but we have learnt about services and practices different from our own,” Ms Creaser said.
“There are many things that we will carry with us through future careers, along with memories of beautiful, ambitious people who have given us experiences we will never forget.
“We hope that they have learnt from us as we have we have from them.”
The engagement with professional colleagues in Timor-Leste represents an example of the benefits of outbound student mobility, facilitating confident and skilled graduates, and strengthens existing professional, academic and cultural links with academic and government partners.
For further information on the Disability and Community Inclusion Unit, please visit http://www.flinders.edu.au/sohs/sites/disability-studies/.