Equity in education matters

Equity is about just and fair inclusion and creating an environment in which everyone can participate on the same basis and reach their full academic potential.

The Access and Disability Service is striving to ensure that students with disability, medical/mental health conditions, neurodiversity and significant carer responsibilities can participate fully in the ACU experience.

By working with students, academics and the university, we are empowering students to take on every opportunity through the provision of appropriate reasonable adjustments. It is with these provisions that one of our students, Brielle Riza, was able to engage in the SOCS210 Study Experience in Fiji.

Brielle has kindly shared her amazing experience with us all:

My name is Brielle Riza, I am hard of hearing. I have hearing aids and use Auslan when needed. I have worked with young people in Mackillop Family Services for the last six years, which led me to a passion to study youth work. I was studying for a Bachelor of Youth Work at Australian Catholic University. I decided to go on this study trip related to my youth work course as we would be working with young Fijian people and learning about the cultural differences between Australia and Fiji.

It was my first time overseas but wasn’t my first study trip, as I did a study trip in Western Australia for three weeks working with Aboriginal people in 2014. I had never been to Fiji, and it was my first time staying with a host family.

The highlight in Fiji was the village. I stayed in the Nabalasere village for four days. It was a fantastic experience to share their day-to-day life, kava, experience the cultural differences as they welcomed outsiders into their village, and connect with families in different houses. Staying with the host family was very interesting. We connected straight away and communication wasn’t hard as they can speak English. However, the accent could be challenging because I am hard of hearing. I did sometimes have to communicate without having my interpreters around. The families were terrific and would try their best to communicate with me when I didn’t understand. I managed to overcome it and showed them what I could do.

I received a beautiful message from one of the members of Think Pacific from the women in the village who told them how they felt after meeting me. They said that usually when they see a deaf person, they first see limitations and barriers, but they saw me just “going out and climbing the mountains” and being independent.

I learnt that Fiji is a developing country and more things need to improve for young people. These include breaking the barriers and getting more support for people with disabilities, which I will apply in my studies. The biggest culture shock was the village and how welcoming people were. There were special guests who could only come through one door and were not allowed to sit near the village chief. Drinking kava is part of their culture. Kava is yum!

I came home to Australia with the skills to be more aware of developing countries and make kava from scratch. I already had skills working with young people, but was also aware that there are a lot of things that developing countries need to learn such as mental health, advocacy and gender equality. I would love to work in developing countries, and I am hopefully moving to London so I can travel around developing countries to volunteer to make changes. Fiji really changed my mindset.

I am very grateful for the experience which was made accessible by ACU’s Access and Disability Service providing Auslan interpreters to accompany me to Fiji.


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