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Trip abroad fuels Jai’s desire to help Indigenous peers

Antony Perry

11 October 2017: When Jai Cornish-Martin graduates from the University of Canberra, he hopes to use the power of education to transform the lives of disadvantaged Indigenous youth.

It’s a cause close to Mr Cornish-Martin’s heart and spending time with Indigenous Fijians on a recent study trip has further fuelled his desire to help others.

The Kunja man, whose tribe is from South East Queensland, travelled to the South Pacific nation in the Winter Semester as part of one of the University’s programs funded under the New Colombo Plan initiative. The University was recently awarded $1.3 million in funding to run similar trips next year.

Mr Cornish-Martin, who is studying a Bachelor of Science in Psychology / Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science, said his choice of degree was influenced by his passion for helping the less fortunate.

The 18-year-old hopes to one day combined his knowledge of physical education and psychology to help Indigenous people study and go on to live successful lives.

“The trip to Fiji was an amazing and inspiring educational journey and confirmed this is the path I want to continue down,” Mr Cornish-Martin said.

“Every single aspect of the trip enhanced my learning, my development, and my growth as an Indigenous man.

“The most enriching part of the journey was being able to connect and share wisdom and knowledge with everyone I crossed paths with.”

Mr Cornish-Martin said he was struck by the simplicity with which the Fijian people live, describing it as a lightbulb moment.

“The understanding of helping the less fortunate is often a clichéd statement, but this trip allowed me to come to the realisation that these people don’t necessarily consider themselves less fortunate,” he said.

“This is simply due to the understanding of happiness. It was the most amazing and wonderful sight to see so many happy and smiling faces everywhere we went. It really allowed me to step back and put my whole life into perspective.”

Students toured various cultural sites and visited different universities across the islands to gain a deeper understanding of Fiji’s iTaukei culture.

Fred Leftwich, who is studying a Bachelor of Social Science in Indigenous Studies, said the benefits of practical learning far outweigh that of classroom tuition.

“There is no better way to learn about your study than to experience firsthand in another Indigenous culture,” Mr Leftwich said.

“I learnt so much more by speaking to people as opposed to sitting in a classroom talking about the topic.”

Mr Leftwich is the recipient of an Aurora internship and will undertake further study-related travel next year.

The University offers students a range of overseas study programs. More information can be found here.