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Connexus : Issue 40
Roads less travelled Credit union employee Justine williams is used to visiting remote communities, but her recent trip to the backblocks of timor Leste was something special. By stEPHANiE BROwN Being granted the Steve Birt Scholarship to attend the most recent CUFA Development Education program had an added bonus for Justine Williams. The program is usually held in Australia, but last year it was in Timor Leste for the first time. “ I’m in my 30s, but I hadn’t had the oppor tunity to travel overseas before. It was ver y exciting,” she says. Not that Williams is a stranger to air travel. As human resources officer at Traditional Credit Union, she flies regularly to some of Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities to recr uit employees for its 11 remote branches (soon to be expanded to 22). CUFA’s Steve Birt Scholar ship is made possible by Teachers Mutual Bank. It enables a Traditional Credit Union employee to take par t in the Development Education program each year so they can network and improve their skills. The five-day program is held each November and is open to all professionals in the mutual sector. Participants learn about development and attend sessions on subjects including public speaking, sustainability, the histor y of the credit union movement, issues in education and gender, and pover ty alleviation. After the program, participants complete a community project benefiting their mutual to qualify for the Development Educator Cer tificate. They are then able to mentor future Development Education par ticipants. learning curve In Timor Leste, Williams and the other par ticipants had the oppor tunity to witness social and economic development first hand. “I thought the way of life and living standards in Timorese communities would be similar to what I see every day visiting remote Indigenous communities, but it was quite different. It was a learning curve for all of us,” she says. “ I was eager to take par t in the session on public speaking. I always freeze up when it comes to doing that, so I wanted to use it to build my confidence. At the end of the program I did a presentation on malaria, and I did feel much more comfortable about it.” Networking with fellow credit union professionals was another valuable aspect of the experience. “ We had the opportunity to learn from each other. Although many of the other credit unions are much bigger than mine, it was interesting to learn about the differences.” Program participants travelled for five hours to visit the Lanamona Credit Union, which CUFA is supporting, and met some of the villagers in CUFA’s Village Entrepreneur initiative. They were greeted by a marching procession of brightly dressed women and girls, and presented with traditional Timorese tais (beautiful woven cloth used for ceremonial adornment, home decor and apparel). This year’s Development Education program will be held on Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbour, on November 12-16. For more information, contact CUFA education officer Anne Casey by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting w w w. cufa.com.au Stephanie Brown is a CUFA project officer. I was eager to take part in the session on public speaking. I always freeze up when it comes to doing that... Justine with other DE participants practising presentation skills learned on the program 46 Connexus COMMUNITY