Papuan students building networks and partnerships in WA

Thirty-eight students and staff from the University of Ottow and Geissler (UOG), part of the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua in the Indonesian province of Papua, visited Perth from Tuesday 14 to Thursday 23 August. The trip was supported by the Black Pearl Network, a Uniting Church WA network of congregations supporting the partnership between the Uniting  Church in Australia and the Evangelical Christian Church in the land of Papua (GKI).

The students are studying their Masters in Business at UOG and the majority of them are also pastors in their home church. The group spent their time in Perth seeing sites such as Kings Park and Fremantle, but also learning about the structures of the Uniting Church WA and its agencies. They visited students at Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC), staff at Good Samaritan Industries (GSI), met with the UnitingWorld WA Commission and Uniting Church Centre staff, toured UnitingCare West’s Tranby Centre and Fremantle Service Centre, visited the Yokai office, and met with members of  the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, plus a number of local congregations.

One of the other main purposes of the trip was to establish a relationship with the University of Western Australia (UWA) Business School’s Innovation Quarter. The Innovation Quarter supports local entrepreneurs in the community to partner with students and researchers at the university to grow and sustain their businesses. UOG hopes to start up a similar program in Papua, so have  begun a relationship with the UWA Business School in the hope that Papuans can learn the skills to develop small enterprises of their own. Representatives from UWA will visit UOG in November,  as a result of the meeting here in Perth.

Dr Jerry Sawai, Vice Chancellor of UOG, said – through a translator – that there were three reasons for the students to visit Perth.

“There are three aspects of the trip,” he said. “We want to see the entrepreneurship of the church and the community here, and the Uniting Church related institutions. We also want to see the structure of the Uniting Church, the management and the services of the church because most of the students are pastors.

“The third thing is to see how the church and the society can work together – and also the government – in order to help the community.

“We also want to be known, as the university, because we need to have partners within the church and also the institutions here in Western Australia. We want to develop networks and  partnerships,” he said.

Jerry said the church run university is also developing a language centre, with the support of the Uniting Church WA and GKI. He added that the students who participated on the trip, as well as the church and society back in Papua, will also benefit from the relationships that will be built.

Ross Gobby, member of the Black Pearl Network, said this successful development has been the result of a long process.

“It has been a breakthrough to get all that together, that was an amazing thing to happen,” he said. “These developments didn’t come out of this meeting and drop out of the sky overnight. They  are achievements which are only possible after having been in partnership with Papuan people for more than ten years. We are building on long-term relationships here.

“With overseas aid programs, or any aid programs, our experience is that you can’t get them to blossom without long-term relationships, and by long-term we are talking decades.”

Jerry thanked the Uniting Church WA for the support they received to make the trip and the networking possible.

“God bless them in their life and services,” he said.

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