Victoria University youth work students recently returned from a Pacific Islands study tour where they explored local community development issues.
The 11 students spent two weeks in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as part of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, gaining credit towards their three-year youth work degree.
Grace Langton and Irene Paulsen, the tour’s accompanying teachers, said the Visit Pasifika trip provided VU students with authentic opportunities to work alongside Pacific Island youth work students and staff in a cross-cultural knowledge exchange.
As a Solomon Islander herself, Irene’s strong professional networks were invaluable for both planning and implementing the tour.
In the Solomon Islands, the group conducted a one-day seminar on Australian youth work experiences and practices for their student counterparts at VU partner institute, the Solomon Islands National University in Honiara. They also discussed opportunities for student exchanges and pathways between the two universities.
The VU students had the chance to lunch with Australia’s High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands, Andrew Byrne, and met local student recipients of Australian government-funded scholarships.
They furthered a partnership forged by VU youth work researchers Professor Robyn Broadbent and Associate Professor Tim Corney as they conducted workshops with the Solomon Islands Association of Youth Workers and other organisations.
In Vanuatu, VU students joined local youth work students in other collaborative workshops at the Australian Pacific Technical College in Port Vila.
They also spent two days at Wan Smolbag Youth Centre, participating in a range of recreational and literacy workshops, observing performances by a theatre group for people with disabilities, and conducting a half-day workshop with local students involved in a youth leadership and career-mentoring program.
The VU group ended their tour with a trip to Tanna Island to experience traditional Vanuatu culture and food, and share stories with locals. Here, they visited Vanuatu’s most popular tourist attraction, Mount Yasur, one of the world’s most accessible active volcanos.
VU student Erin Obregger said the tour was eye-opening and offered opportunities to make life-long connections.
Several of the returned VU students are currently looking at going back to the region to do volunteer work to strengthen the relationships they formed during the tour.