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Sports power enriching lives in Bali

VU sports students trying out wheelchairs at the Bali Sports Foundation, as part of a New Colombo Plan-funded study tour.

If Victoria University's (VU) ethos is about transforming lives globally, a group of students from the College of Sport & Exercise Science are certainly playing their part to realise this vision.

Part-funded by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan mobility grant, the fivesome left for the Indonesian island of Bali last month to complete a month-long placement with the Bali Sports Foundation – a not-for-profit founded in 2009 to provide high-quality sports opportunities for people with disabilities. The project is being undertaken in partnership with Australian Volunteers International.

Students Lucy Merino, Joshua Rhodes, Matthew Wood, Lee Dale and Gavin Howard (pictured), who are all studying sports-related bachelor degrees in areas including sports management, exercise science and sports psychology, are working alongside local staff to support the 15-plus programs offered by the Denpasar-based foundation to enrich the lives of people living with disabilities.

Group chaperone Angela Dressler, an Honorary Fellow in the college’s Career Development and Employability program, says the mobility grant has enabled the students to put their academic theory and learning into practice, all the while growing their international outlook in a developing country.

"The study tour, which is part of the students’ course placement, has seen the group working across a range of programs including marketing and promotions, training athletes with disabilities for wheelchair basketball and rugby, and helping with the classification of athletes from elite sports," Ms Dressler says.

"It’s been an incredibly valuable insight for the students into the world of people living with disabilities and the transformative role of sport in improving lives and uplifting communities," she says.

"As well as developing the students’ capacity as global citizens and providing them with an international study experience, the program is a valuable addition to their resumes and attractiveness to future employers."

Speaking to VU from Denpasar, Matthew says the study tour has opened his eyes to the role of sports in different parts of the world.

"This experience gave me a great insight into the power of sport, and how it can change the lives of people in many cultures," Matthew says.

"I have gained a sense of appreciation for the opportunities I have been given growing up in Australia, and am thankful that I have been able to assist in improving the lives of those that work with the Bali Sports Foundation," he says.

The study tour is one of seven VU international education experiences funded by the New Colombo Plan this year, with three of the projects spanning beyond 2017.

The plan aims to enhance Australia’s relationships with, and knowledge of, the Indo-Pacific by supporting Australian undergraduate students to study and undertake internships in the region.

Historically, VU has an excellent track-record of securing New Colombo Plan mobility grants – attracting a total of $1.3 million to support 429 students across 27 projects in countries including Japan, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Timor Leste, China, Thailand and Vietnam since its 2014 launch.

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