First humanitarian students offer help to Asia 

CDU student Lisa Lock is about to try her new-found humanitarian skills in the refugee fields of South East Asia

Darwin student Lisa Lock is about to experience firsthand what it’s like to be part of a humanitarian effort to stamp out malaria in South East Asia.

Lisa is studying a ground-breaking course available at Charles Darwin University that trains people to become professional humanitarian workers during a three year degree.

The Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies degree is a first for Australia and the world as the only undergraduate degree that qualifies students to work as humanitarian logisticians for international aid agencies or community and welfare workers in remote communities.

Lisa is the first of 21 students to do a 50-day international placement with an international aid agency involved in a humanitarian effort and will leave Darwin for Thailand in September.

Lisa will fly to Mae Sot, a city on the border of Thailand and Burma, where more than 100,000 refugees from ethnic minority groups have set up camps. The refugee camps are rife with drug-resistant malaria and Lisa will spend 50 days working with the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, which employs 200 local people to investigate and treat malaria in the region.

For the first five weeks of her international placement Lisa will interview pregnant women to find out what health services they have accessed. The next five weeks of her placement will depend on what humanitarian crisis emerges in the area at that time, but the 40-year-old mother of two says she is prepared for anything.

“I am just really excited,” Lisa said. “I want to learn about humanitarian efforts like this in Thailand because a lot of these sustainable aid programs could be used in some of the remote communities in the Northern Territory.”

Course lecturer and co-creator of the Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies, Dan Baschiera is no stranger to the front lines of humanitarian work. He was a key logistician in Sierra Leone for Medecins Sans Frontieres after completing his training in France.

It was during this work as a humanitarian logistician, supporting a paediatric emergency hospital behind the infamous diamond fields, that he saw the significant need for linkages between community development, social work and the humanitarian industry. After leaving Sierra Leone he joined CDU and scoped the potential of an undergraduate degree with colleagues in the engineering, education and health science.

Dan said there was an emerging need for people who were professionally trained in humanitarian work who also could train people in the strife-torn communities.

Dan said students received “people skills” training in social work, ethics, community capacity-building, group work, project management, radio communications, coordinating food and medical supplies, water sanitation,  and setting up security networks while operating and maintaining a mechanical plant, all with minimal resources and in remote locations.

“A lot of it is ‘hands on’. Theory is one thing, bleeding diesel injectors is another, and if you do need to radio for help it’s best to get through to the mechanic at your operational base and not surf with the Indonesian fishermen in the Arafura Sea.”

Students also will complete a two-week remote project at the CDU Katherine campus and the remote Mataranka station to learn practical skills in first aid, four wheel drive training, basic mechanical maintenance, radio communications, water sanitation, operation and maintenance of machinery and equipment.

The three-year degree, which has accreditation from the Australian Institute of Welfare and Community Work, also includes units in social work, psychology, sociology, community development, legal issues and social policy.