Kimberley volunteering program pays big dividends for students

24/01/2023 | 3 mins

Health sciences student at The University of Western Australia, Mia du Toit, probably never imagined she’d be taste-testing kangaroo tail cooked by a local elder or organising kids’ movie nights on a basketball court in northern WA during the first year of her degree but she wouldn’t have swapped it.

The Applecross resident, who is studying a Bachelor of Biomedicine with a double major in Aboriginal health and wellbeing and anatomy and human biology, said taking part in a two-week volunteering program in the Kimberley town of Halls Creek last year was “inspiring and fun”.

The Kimberley Experience program was re-established last year by UWA’s School of Human Sciences and is targeted at undergraduates who are looking to enhance their student experience and meet others as well as boost their CV and see more of Australia.

Mia du Toit during her two weeks in the KimberleyImage: Mia du Toit (left) with former Halls Creek Recreation centre manager Ryan Chapman and UWA student Jason Dean.

“Another student Jason Dean and I were based at the Halls Creek Recreation Centre and I really fell in love with the locals,” Mia said. 

“One of my favourite things was the art classes with the little kids – as soon as they’d finished their art, they’d run across to the Arts centre to try and sell it. 

“I’d one day like to work in rural medicine and the opportunity to get a foot in the door with a local community like Halls Creek and make connections and network was an invaluable experience.”

School of Human Sciences lecturer Dr Kathryn Fortnum said the program, which sees students work alongside locals in remote areas in the Kimberley, supports the efforts of local organisations like Garnduwa and the Police and Community Youth Centres in delivering school holiday programs.

“Students organise activities like basketball programs and competitions, footy games, pool games and parties, arts and crafts as well as take part in country trips and skatepark activities,” Dr Fortnum said.

“They have the option to visit local medical centres and meet with local NGOs, if that aligns with their academic and career goals, and are provided training in Aboriginal and Cultural Awareness as well as given opportunities to visit Aboriginal communities.”

Dr Fortnum said the program, which covered students’ travel, meals and accommodation, benefited all involved, including the Kimberley kids taking part and the volunteer students.

“As well as improving their educational experience, it helps students develop skills in program development, delivery and debriefing; as well as leadership, communication and team-work, and positively contribute to programs that benefit the Western Australian community,” she said. 

“It’s a fun way to give back and learn at the same time.”

Michael Rosenberg, Head of School of Human Sciences, said the program was an important initiative that helped students build their university experience and meet fellow students.  

"We aim to grow the program and encourage all students in the school to engage in these types of activities as a complement to their other studies,” he said.

The Kimberley Experience is on during the last two weeks of January as well as over Easter, the July mid-year break and term three break in September/October. For more information see the Facebook page here.

Media references

Annelies Gartner (UWA PR & Media Manager) 08 6488 3229

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