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

Public Health Study Tour

Tiana Mahncke is a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient from Monash University. Tiana undertook the Public Health Study Tour in November-December 2019.

Q:Why did you decide to undertake the ACICIS Public Health Study Tour?

Upon graduating, I plan to qualify as an epidemiologist specialising in the intersection between environmental degradation, social disadvantage, and human health.  Prior to participating in the ACICIS Public Health study tour, I understood that the Indonesian healthcare system recognises the inextricable links between environmental quality and disease risk.  As such, I felt that this tour would be a unique opportunity to improve my knowledge of environmental health.

Further, as close neighbours in an era of intense globalisation, I appreciate the fact that Australia and Indonesia are likely to have shared public health challenges in the future.  This makes collaboration between our respective healthcare practitioners increasingly important.  I was also confident that the PHST would be a useful way of building the intercultural competency required to work with international partners on emerging global health issues.


Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? If so, how did this contribute to your experience in Indonesia?

I was fortunate enough to receive the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant, which not only lessened the financial pressures of studying abroad; it also gave me the opportunity to complete the Bennelong New Colombo Plan Pre-Departure Cultural Awareness course.  This training notably enriched my study tour experience given that it prepares students for the cultural norms, beliefs, and behaviours that one is likely to encounter in Asian professional settings.  It also developed key cross-cultural communication skills, which served me well on the tour and are likely to be valuable again in the future.


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

The academics involved in the PHST strongly encouraged participants to observe and critique all aspects of the Indonesian healthcare system.  However, the most significant challenge that I encountered on the tour was understanding whether my assessments of current strategies, funding structures, facilities etc. serve as useful appraisals or are unfair judgments informed by my experiences as a non-religious Australian woman.  Given that I hope to work in less developed countries at a point in my career, I am grateful for the fact that the PHST helped me identify an issue that surely often arises in development practice, so that I may be better prepared in future.


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

Since my participation in the PHST, I have a better awareness of the difficulties associated with delivering healthcare services to a large young population where maternal-childhood health issues and diseases of poverty exist alongside a disease profile that is more characteristic of most developed countries.  I found the management of diseases of poverty particularly interesting given that incidence and transmission are often determined by environmental factors.  For this reason, I have developed a 2020 Honours project that focuses on the perceived risk acceptability of mosquito control as a means of managing Buruli Ulcer, a neglected tropical disease that is currently an epidemic in Victoria.


Q: What was your favourite field trip? Explain why.

As an aspiring development professional, I really enjoyed the fact that inclusive stakeholder engagement was a reoccurring theme in many of the field trips.  Indeed, it was strongly apparent that community empowerment and community-led solutions are among the more impactful initiatives in the public health sector.

I couldn’t possibly choose between the World Mosquito Program and Koli Code as highlights.  I was aware of the World Mosquito Program prior to the PHST given that it is headquartered at Monash University.  However, learning about how the Wolbachia research is being implemented in Yogyakarta was an exciting new opportunity to view a public health campaign that duly recognises the importance of community support.  I particularly admired how the Yogyakarta team has drawn upon creative mediums such as street art and traditional dance in order to build community awareness.  Similarly, Koli Code, a revitalised urban slum, proved to be an incredibly inspiring example of a community-led sustainable development project with strong government support.


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

Overall, the PHST was an invaluable experience that is likely to benefit my future professional endeavours.  It not only solidified my interest in the environmental determinants of neglected tropical disease; it has also made me more acutely aware of the importance of Asian-Australian relations, particularly as we enter the ‘Asian Century.’  I definitely plan to seek out more opportunities to deepen my general knowledge of the Asia-Pacific region in the near future.


Q:What did you most enjoy about the seminar series?

I really appreciated the fact that Indonesian academics and healthcare practitioners involved in delivering the seminars actively encouraged participation and had a genuine interest in gaining the insights of Australian students.


Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?

Indonesia is a fascinating country with a history and culture that is as complex as its topography.  I loved absolutely every aspect of this visit, from the rich flavours of traditional dishes to meeting the friendly ACICIS staff.  ACICIS programs are a fantastic opportunity to discover the ‘real’ Indonesia by learning about the challenges faced by its citizens, forming close relationships with the UI buddies, and visiting locations off the tourist trail.  I can’t wait to head back and explore other islands.