What would motivate two men to fly thousands of kilometres across a vast continent to attend university classes?
Two Curtin students who make the long journey are inspired by a commitment to their communities and a desire to make tomorrow better.
Five times a year, Far North Queenslanders Ronnie Bosuen and Raymen Fauid pack their bags, kiss their families goodbye and head for Perth to attend classes at Curtin’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies.
Both men are undertaking the Bachelor of Applied Science (Indigenous Community Management and Development) and stay in Western Australia for between a week and a fortnight at a time.
Cairns resident Mr Bosuen – originally from the Napranum community near Weipa on Cape York – has worked in the mining industry for 16 years.
When he heard about the CAS program he was working for Rio Tinto in Perth, managing the company’s training department in the Pilbara iron operations.
“The program is right up my alley,” he said.
“In the mining sector we have lots of tools in training but they don’t cover all the historical and cultural issues.
“This course has given me that knowledge as well as tools to use in my life.”
A major feature of the program is that students are required to turn their classroom knowledge into a real-life project in their local communities.
Mr Bosuen’s project – to take people from remote Cape York communities to visit the bauxite mine at Weipa and assess job opportunities there – was the start of a whole new business venture.
“Since the first tour kicked off in August 2008 we have taken 25 people to Weipa and nine are now working in traineeships there,” he said.
Mr Bosuen now heads up an organisation called Indigenous PathWays Solutions that trains indigenous people to work in mining.
“Starting this company as a result of my CAS project has really given me that next level of being more responsible and aware,” he said.
“It was a big decision for my partner and myself to make – to leave the secure Rio Tinto job, move to Cairns and start this work with indigenous communities.”
Mr Bosuen said his new venture aimed to give people hope and empower them to make good choices.
“It’s about driving home the message that if you don’t change now, then the generation after you won’t change,” he said.
“To have a really good future you have to have good, strong leaders and good role models.”
From Poruma Island in Torres Strait, Mr Fauid travels even further than Mr Bosuen to get to Curtin.
Taking four flights and spending almost 10 hours in the air to get to Perth, he says the flexibility of the CAS program means he can continue working in his community.
“In my community I can see there is a need for some form of leadership,” the Poruma aerodrome employee said.
“I want to meet those needs and help people towards self-determination or autonomy one day.
“I want to be a role model, not only for my kids but for other kids in the region and nationally.”
Mr Fauid is studying management through CAS and started his community project this year.
* Adapted from a Cite magazine story written by Glenys Haalebos
** Photograph: James Rogers