New Colombo Plan - Connect to Australia’s future - study in the region.

Virtual Public Health Study Tour

Louise Costanzo is a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient from The University of Sydney. Louise undertook the Virtual Public Health Study Tour in January 2021.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake this virtual program?

I am employed as a social worker in a large public hospital situated in Sydney, Australia. I work in the area of mental health but I maintain an area in health overall.  I was very interested in gaining an education regarding the health issues and illnesses which occur in Indonesia and the manner in which they are managed both by the Government and the population.

This coupled with my great interest in the country of Indonesia and its people made the two week intensive course very appealing.

This was a way of experiencing Indonesia, its academics and members of the public at a time when a physical visit was not possible.

I had already undertaken one ACICIS in- country short course some years ago, and the experience was so positive that I was very confident that the Public Health Tour would be academically stimulating  along with being very well organised.


Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? Why do you think the NCP is an important initiative?

Yes I did receive a Colombo Grant for which I am very grateful.

This mobility grant enables many people to undertake courses in Indonesia and throughout parts of South East Asia which would otherwise be difficult to afford. The mobility grant enables  Australians to study and work with Indonesians in their country and this opportunity would otherwise be only possible if one could secure work in Indonesia or was lucky enough to have adequate financial resources to enrol in Indonesia. It develops knowledge and friendship between two neighbours and is a vital component of Australia’s foreign affairs.


Q: What did you find to be the most rewarding part of this virtual program?

It was all rewarding. Being able to listen to lectures by academics who are leaders in their fields and based at the Universitas Indonesia was a privilege. Having that many specialists present each day and then be available for questions made each subject an area of interest.

The virtual field tours were fascinating as I felt as if I was in Indonesia. Being virtual and being on site made the subject matter easier to understand and put the challenges into perspective. It was particularly wonderful to be listening to and speaking with Indonesians. It gave a real feel of being in country.

I was very taken with the effort to organise participatory cultural events such as cooking and dancing. Again it made me feel as if I was not only in Indonesia but it allowed me to engage with my fellow students. The emphasis remained that one was not undertaking the course only to learn about health but also to see and experience Indonesia. Not easy to achieve virtually but this tour managed it very successfully.


Q: What did you find to be the most challenging about your experience on the Virtual PHST?

Maintaining the energy to stay focused throughout a very intense and challenging two weeks. However the staff from both the Universitas Indonesia and ACICIS were very clever and considerate in offering breaks at the right time along with motivational exercises and distractions.


Q: What public health issues in Indonesia have you become more interested in/aware of as a result of this virtual tour?

All diseases especially those which affect Indonesia’s poorest and most disadvantaged  and the relatively simple measures such as improved sanitation, clean water and education which could help negate many of these illnesses.

Stunting and the extent to which it occurs throughout Indonesia- particularly its’ poorest regions.

The mosquito borne diseases and the fantastic study/experiment being undertaken in Yogyakarta in trying to eradicate dengue.

Indonesia’s continuing attachment to cigarettes and the strident abuse of its population particularly Indonesia’s youth by multinational corporations. Colonialism continuing!


Q: What was your favourite virtual fieldtrip?

I loved them all!

The Kali Kode river sanitation tour along with the Black Fly Larvae recycling/composting trip were interesting in that you were travelling throughout the community watching Indonesians manage their own health issues. One could actually see the work being undertaken while the community went about its everyday life. It was good to hear what the public had to say.

The mosquito laboratory and the Yogyakarta rehabilitation centre provided insight into the role of professionals and research.

The trip to the Puskesmas and the Posyandu were wonderful as I believe that such a concept would be very successful in country and isolated areas in Australia and particularly in remote Aboriginal communities.

These virtual field trips made me feel as if I was actually travelling around Indonesia and not sitting in Australia.


Q: Were you able to learn about the Indonesian culture from this virtual program?

Yes! The program offered two wonderfully engaging activities which included cooking and dancing. The fact that these cultural events were interactive was fantastic as all the students participated from their own homes but I felt as if I was in a hall with my fellow students. I loved these activities and again I had to pinch myself to remember that I was in fact not in Indonesia but in Australia.

I felt very engaged and involved with these events and they were very well considered. Most of us cook and dance at some time.


Q: How do you think the Virtual Public Health Study Tour will influence your future career or studies?

This tour has made me realise that some significant health problems in Indonesia could be solved or at least significantly reduced by simple and cost effective measures. For instance, installing household sewage systems which can help prevent raw sewage from draining into local waterways. Australia has the capacity to provide financial aid and technical assistance to assist with such achievements.

I would like to support an exchange program where Australian and Indonesian hospitals/health centres form a partnership and exchange of  training/education and research.

It has made me aware of the privilege of being healthy and that poverty is one of the biggest contributors to ill health and disease. It has made me consider health as more of a social issue as opposed to its dependence upon the physical and biological .

In the future I would like to undertake some work in either an Indonesian hospital or community centre.


Q: Favourite Indonesian word/phrase?

Enak Semangat!


Q: Describe your experience of the Virtual PHST in three words:

Challenged, Impressed and Satisfied.