Wildlife Justice in Malawi

“Malawi… Where exactly is that?”
This was a phrase I became well acquainted with before jetting off to my Legal International Internship. For those of you who aren’t aware, Malawi is a small, land-locked country in Southern Africa. It’s one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world and one of Africa’s principal hubs for the illegal trafficking of wildlife. Having recently learnt all of this myself, I decided to organise my legal international internship with the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, and discover what life, work and the law were like in Malawi.

Full of anticipation, I set off on a long flight to the nations capital- Lilongwe, hoping this experience would be worth the countless, painful vaccinations I’d endured over the preceding 6 weeks. Arriving in Lilongwe, everything was unfamiliar. The airport was crowded, disorganised and chaotic but amongst the crowd a grinning face welcomed me with a huge sign baring my name. This is probably the best illustration of Malawi as a country- it can be disorderly and confronting, but it’s warm-hearted people make it all worthwhile.
Lilongwe itself is a dusty and vast city where land can run for miles and miles with just small clusters of buildings. The roadsides are populated by enthusiastic farmers showcasing their goods, mothers with babies bound to their chest, and young women balancing kilos of fruit on their head in what can only be described as the engineering feat of the century. It’s hard to walk more than 20 metres without receiving offers to by some form of miscellaneous good (anything from mangoes to deep fried mice- not rice, mice). It’s a simple existence,  but all of these little quirks helped me take a real shine to a much more simple, cheerful and slow-paced life.

I was working as a legal intern with the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (‘LWT’), Malawi’s leading wildlife NGO, who, from a legal perspective, play an important role in the change and implementation of wildlife policy. This internship gave me a chance to not only learn so much about the law in an international context, but to develop skills as a legal professional beyond what I had ever imagined. I was attending court regularly, drafting speeches for parliament and completing legal research projects. I felt I was thrown in the deep end and really pushed to challenge myself, but was constantly supported along the way. There is something incredibly satisfying about working in an environment where ‘intern’ doesn’t equate to coffee sherpa, and you’re given a platform to showcase what you’ve learnt throughout your studies, and the guidance to improve upon areas of weakness.
Sure, working in Malawi wasn’t all roses and sunshine. It’s not always easy working in an office with intermittent power in the summertime heat, or finding geckos running rampant in your kitchen, or travelling for 7+ hours overnight to attend court in another city (in the pitch black darkness, guided only by a car with temperamental headlights). However, the luxuries and comforts that the country lacked were very quickly overshadowed by all of the positives this experience gave me. I’ve left with a greater sense of purpose and passion for my future work, an increased level of empathy and admiration for those working in the foreign NGO sector… I’ve even overcome my fear of those wiggly, little critters than made my skin crawl on arrival.

One of the most exciting parts of my internship was being afforded the opportunity to travel all around the country, attending cases in various cities and assisting with court monitoring. My supervisor, Arthur, was with me every step of the way. We spent tireless hours road-tripping across the country, surviving on little sleep and attending court. He never hesitated to go out of his way (in his own time) to ensure I would experience the best of what each city had to offer- from breathtaking mountain ranges, to cheeky baboons or even the pride and joy of the nation (the Carlsberg factory). I was able to see and do so much while interning, without having to plan, stress and coordinate on my time off.  I was also lucky enough to squeeze a weekend safari trip to South Luangwa National Park into my schedule. Spotting wild lions, giraffes, hippos and zebras from mere metres away was an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience and something I will treasure forever.

My time in Malawi was truly unbeatable. I grew so much from a professional standpoint, but also as a person. I am so thankful to the faculty of UTS Law for organising an international internship subject, and to the UTS BUILD team for making this wild dream of interning in Malawi a reality.

 – Stephanie

Studying Chinese at the Beijing Institute of Technology – 2019 Summer Program

When I stepped out of Sydney Airport and was hit with a blazing hot summer breeze, I felt a sense of relief to be back home but at the same time, I yearned for the times I enjoyed in Beijing over my 2-week language and culture program with the Beijing Institute of Technology. I will cherish those moments of joy, trepidation, fear and disbelief for a long time.

Because I live off-campus while commuting to UTS, I never before experienced dorm life at university, so BIT was my first. The freedom I felt to be able to run to both classes and a nearby convenience store in a matter of minutes was far different to my usual hourly commute back home. The room was basic, the wifi worked only some of the time and I was always subject to the freezing night air entering through a hole in my balcony door. By pure coincidence, I was the only one assigned to a dorm room without a partner. But my friends stayed just next door and it was fun organising outings and dinner together within a minute’s notice instead of a week in advance. My involvement in the shopping process though was hindered by my limited Chinese, so I was stuck with saying 我要这个 (I want this) and pointing to the item in question. But it was good (Canteen 2 was my favourite) and goddamn cheap, even though I still overspent on fruit (also sold just next door) and milk tea.

I sympathised with our Chinese language teacher, Zhang老师, having to teach a class with students of varying levels of Chinese ability. The interactive parts during the class (racing to form Chinese characters from basic radicals, roleplaying a restaurant scenario) were fun and different from the standard affair, and her using Chinese in-class helped myself become more immersed, even though her English was also good. For my current level, the class felt just challenging enough, although I understood my friends who thought it was too easy.

Culture classes brought in guest teachers to introduce us different aspects of Chinese culture in a practical way. Zhai老师 graced us with a beautiful demonstration of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and we tried it out ourselves, though for me it turned out messier than expected. Peng老师 taught us Chinese paper-cutting but it ended up with me torturing a Peppa Pig cut-out instead. Xiong老师’s lesson on calligraphy was also insightful, but my trembling hands kept my artwork from being the masterpieces that could have been.

The excursions were less like a guided tour and more like free-time, allowing us to traverse places such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. I will always treasure my accomplishment for trekking through a full course of the Great Wall (to be honest, the uneven steps and descent down were the scariest part). While I believe that these sights would have been more scenic during spring or summer, winter gave us fewer tourists so taking photographs was much easier. However, my favourite excursion has to be the impromptu night trip to watch “Get Together In Beijing”, a dance performance by students from the Beijing Dance Academy with other BIT International Students. The theatre was stunning, the choreography was on point and the dancers themselves were very talented. It has given me the inspiration to try dancing more often for fun.

However, if you asked me what was the most memorable experience of my 2 weeks at BIT, it was not even the BIT program itself, but the other UTS students within the program. To be able to meet and become friends from different walks of life, all sharing an interest in China was new and refreshing. The classes, excursions, and sightseeing wouldn’t have been the same without them and playing cards until the late night of 10pm was filled with many laughs. I remember the long night walks, coming back together from touring, to listen to personal stories from my friends. All of them were older than me, and most were from different disciplines at UTS, but their stories of work, life, family and relationships were relatable, raw and very emotional. I was empathetic to the pain they experienced in the past but amazed in their emotional resilience and their growth from it. It also has given me the opportunity to self-reflect and gave me more confidence in being more proactive throughout university life so that one day, I would have a story worth telling others, (well at least ones not hours long). I know that that I wouldn’t have become friends with them in any other circumstance, and that I wouldn’t likely see them again, but I wish them good luck in all their future endeavours so that they would have more stories to tell.

I am grateful for BIT for supporting us throughout those 2 weeks, I am grateful to UTS for providing this opportunity to travel to China and I am grateful to BUILD Abroad for providing me a financial scholarship to allow me to fund my travel. I am grateful to the friends I made at BIT for the stories they shared. In return, I endeavour in continue practicing and learning Mandarin, whether through classes or self-studying, and perhaps pick up a new hobby to find a new way in expressing myself and make my own story to share with others.

Tony Nguyen

牛涛(Niu Tao)

Bula Fiji! Building Resilience towards Climate Change

The Real Fiji. That is what myself and 20 other students from the University of Technology, Sydney were able to experience in the early summer days of 2019. I had heard about the beautiful sunsets but I have never seen a place so green and met people who are so welcoming, in my life.

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It was smothering hot to be honest. A different kind of heat that I have never experienced before. Very tropical, very wet and very humid. Despite this, our stay at Waivaka Village and Namatakula Village made me forget about this and immerse myself in the beauty of the villages – both internal and external.

Externally, the landscape was beyond. Mountains, rivers, coconut trees and a lot of Kava. Also a lot of rain but I didn’t mind that because it cooled things down. Internally – the people, the families, the connection and ties with oneself, each other and nature surrounding them. The culture was rich and there was so much positivity, happiness and comradery. The stories were motivating and amazing.

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When delving into the causes of the current climate situation and disruptions that climate change has caused in Fiji, it was clear that these villages were affected. “Certain fruit and vegetables do not grow anymore”, said one villager. However, their resilience was awe-inspiring and empowering.

Based on this we formed groups and chose the topic of Storytelling in order to tell stories of resilience and empowerment towards climate change and how Australians can transition from a disengaged attitude to one where they can act upon this in their daily lives.

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We created a social enterprise called ‘Vanua’ – a Zine to showcase these stories in an innovative manner that BCII has taught us in order to help solve this issue that affects us all.

Overall, Fiji was a life-changing and educational phase of my life that I will never forget. It will never escape my mind how nice, friendly, unconditional and positive Fijians are. “If I say I love people then I love nature – we must preserve that”.

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Vinaka Fiji!

By Amartej Dhami

 

 

Fiji – Climate Change Resilience & Adaptation

‘Fiji time’, a term I heard a lot whilst sweltering in the heat and humidity of the Pacific Island Nation Fiji. A reference to how things happen in their own time that is a lot slower than what we Australians are used it. Whilst it can be irritating and frustrating to most, it is actually a great way of reminding yourself, just be in the moment, be present, be here.

My experience in Fiji will be something I always remember. Going over there as part of a group of 21 UTS students with Unbound, our lens of observation was climate change, sustainable development, and social enterprise. Through the 14 days that I was there, I experienced culture, food and heard stories like none other. With Fiji time, everything seemed so much truer and genuine. Across the program, we had the opportunity to completely immerse ourselves in their way of living through our two homestays in Waivaka and Namatakula, and saw and heard of their ongoing battles against climate change. I saw and felt firsthand how the rising sea levels and changing weather patterns are tearing at the shoreline, eating at the earth and muddying the waters.

That is not to say they are drowning though. They are fighting… after all Fijians have the blood of warriors, sea warriors. They fight everyday against the effects of climate change. Being in Fiji time, they have observed and begun retaliating to these effects already. One NGO, Kai Ni Cola has already taken steps through mangrove plantations and coral reef restorations. They fight everyday so they can maintain their way of life that is rich and vibrant, filled with the spirit of community and family. Despite their villages set to be underwater within the next 100 years, in the words of one village elder ‘We would rather drown than relocate’; that is their willingness to fight.

Their resilience and adaptability to climate change is astounding – and we Australians could do to learn from them. After all, Fiji are our neighbours, our mates in the backyard that we all should chip in to help. 

The experience was incredibly enriching to me as a designer, allowing me to draw on my skills of visual communication and design thinking to create ways of communicating their stories and experiences. My ability to work in a team, empathise with others and connect despite cultural differences have been massively improved so I have no doubt this experience will never be forgotten. I would recommend this program to other UTS students with ease and hope to go back in the future – to see our new families and maybe see how those mangroves we planted together are doing.

– Adrian Chin Quan

Social Enterprise & Sustainable Development – Fiji 2019

My time in Fiji was nothing but an experience of a lifetime!! Myself, along with 20 other students in our 4th year of the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation completed a social enterprise and sustainable development program with Unbound.

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We immersed ourselves in the communities of Waivaka and Namatakula where we ate and drank the local cuisine (hello tarot and kava), danced and sang to the beat of the drums, and laughed and cried at any given moment (almost always simultaneously). But nothing can compare to the beautiful moments we shared with our host families in our homes – playing games, sharing stories, taking many photos for the both of us to cherish. Memories and friendships that will surely last for many years to come!!

We also had the opportunity to visit many cultural sites and local social enterprises with our action projects in mind. We planted mangroves with Kai Ni Cola (the first NGO to come out of Fiji and Namatakula village), spoke to the founders of Growing Tall and Climates over a delicious dinner, visited Suva Museum, participated in a 3 hour dance workshop with Rako Pasefica, and on our final day, visited the Pacific Islands Development Forum to learn about how island nations are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The resilience of these communities is astounding.

This program has not only allowed me to draw on my skills in journalism and storytelling, but it also allowed me to recognise the beauty in the ‘real’ Fiji – through our families, their way of living and how truly innovative they are with the minimal technology and resources they have. It enabled me to recognise my leadership potential and willingness to take on similar opportunities in the future.

While at times I found it challenging to adjust to this new way of living, there were so many lessons learned and connections that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat and would recommend all current and future UTS students to apply for an overseas BUILD program at least once in their degree.

Vinaka vaka levu and see you soon, Fiji 👋🏼

 

-Chelsea Hetherington

Cottage connection – New Zealand 2018

Going into this project I was unsure of what to expect. I had little knowledge of Christchurch or of the destruction and damage caused to the city and its people by the devastating earthquake in 2011. When drafting and researching for the design our team wanted to acknowledge the past and look towards a brighter future for the local community and city. With the inclusion of food specified by FESTA, we had to find ways to incorporate memory and place into this idea.

We started brainstorming our initial ideas including food collection, materials and layout. Many materials, such as bags, crates and trolleys were suggested. Our team got together and presented our ideas to one another and from this we formed our final design.

The final design of our project, titled ‘Cottage Connections’, looks at a way in which the audience (mainly local people from Christchurch) can share their memories of food in Christchurch in exchange for a food product, donated to us by local Canterbury producers. These memories were recorded via audio recorders and then mapped on paper, to be donated back to the local community to add to their collection. In the centre of the design is a large table, made from a reused electrical spool, which displays the food donations. Three recording booths are connected to the large A-frame structures, which surround the table. The exterior of the A-frames is covered in dinner plates, which were collected by us in both Australia and New Zealand from local op-shops. The plates have been created to spin, on one side showing a map of Christchurch and the other quotes from the generous Canterbury producers who donated to us.

Our project contributes to the city of Christchurch because of the effect it has on the local people. It allows them the chance to reflect, remember and share a memory they have of food related to Christchurch. It encourages them to look at the past, acknowledge the good and bad memories and remind them that they are not alone, and together they create the heart of the city. Food is such an important part of our social life and often is the central part of many memories and stories. By sourcing food from local Canterburian producers we are encouraging the people of Christchurch to support local businesses and continue to help the city grow.

On the night of FESTA it was clear the impact that our project had on the people of Christchurch. The feedback we got throughout the night was extremely positive and many participants showed gratitude towards our design. The work was a greater success than any of us expected it to be, with our team collecting over four hundred memories that have been recorded and mapped for the local library. I’m extremely proud of our team and grateful that we had the opportunity to see our design come to life and experience first-hand the impact that it can have on the audience participating in the design. It could not have been achieved without the kind-hearted people of Christchurch who so openly shared their personal memories and it is truly an experience I won’t forget.

– Madel

Allez lez Bleus!

The opportunity to travel, study and learn French in Bordeaux, France, was incredible. Undertaking the Bordeaux Institute of Technology Sustainable Development Summer School which, although was out of my direct area of study, was so interesting and relevant. Giving me an insight in to other aspects of engineering and the different contributions that these fields can have on creating a sustainable and fruitful future. Travelling with 4 other UTS students, all taking different degrees and majors, allowed for a diverse bunch of individuals to experience everything Bordeaux had to offer. Other participants of the summer school included a group from Melbourne’s RMIT university, Morocco, Norway, China and South Korea.

When you think of Bordeaux most people think of silky red wine varieties and endless plates of cheese and cold meats and this is exactly what it was. Daily! Combine this with cloudless skies, endless sunlight, with the sun setting at around 10 pm every night, and 37 degree Celsius days the stage was set for an incredible summer adventure. The relaxed culture and cheerful vibe of the Bordeaux people made it easy to feel connected and really enjoy the time spent outside of the classroom during the trip. Timing was perfect with the 2018 FIFA World Cup being held and televised throughout our stay in France. Especially with the wild success of the French national team, les Bleus! It did not take long for the UTS crew to splurge on official French jerseys to be worn throughout the final series. With jerseys on, the French tongue flowing after days of intense language lessons and sipping on Frances finest 1664 lager we blended in to the crowds and getting among the action for the finals was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. 

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Inside the classroom we had some of the leading researchers and professors deliver briefs on different environmental and sustainability topics. Some stand outs include:

  • The UN Agenda for 2030 on Sustainable Development
  • Recent development in photovoltaic cells – Laurence Vigneau
  • Future of telecommunications – François Rivet
  • Sustainable Wood Production of the Landes de Gascogne Maritime Pine Forest – Florian Delerue
  • Wave-based resonant microsensors for environmental applications – Corinne Dejous

As well as these lectures, Bordeaux INP had organised many half day trips to break up the time spent in lecture halls and classrooms. We visited the Bordeaux Metropole, the architecturally impressive and futuristic wine museum, Chateau Baycheville, the waste management facility and greenhouses utilizing the processed waste to grow tomatoes that are then sold all over France. There was even a morning cooking class by the river learning the fine art of creating different French style, buttery, delicacies.

Leading into my final semester at UTS I feel so lucky to have applied and taken advantage of this opportunity. It has been one of the most impressive and incredible experiences of my time at university and encourage anyone reading this to give it a go. The places visited, the people met and the memories forged, it really was an unforgettable trip. 

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– Keelan