Border closures no barrier to Mujiburrahman's impact
Humanitarian workers make a real difference in vulnerable communities around the world. Understanding the growing need for specialists in this sector, but faced with border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mujiburrahman Thontowi made the tough decision to leave his wife and children at home in Indonesia to return to Australia and finish his PhD in Humanitarian, Emergency and Disaster Management Studies.
Born in Yogyakarta, a small city in Indonesia, Mujiburrahman focused his time and energy on the humanitarian sector after his hometown was hit with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, displacing 60,000 people and killing over 6,000 people.
Due to COVID-19 and subsequent international border closures, his return journey to Darwin seemed impossible, until he learned about CDU's Charter Flight for international students. With renewed hope, he contacted CDU for more information.
"The team at CDU did a wonderful job in preparing and securing the charter flights during the COVID-19 pandemic," he says.
I found most of the updates about the chartered flight via Facebook groups and emails. It was amazing to have certainty that I could finally return to Australia to finish my PhD.
Despite being sad at the prospect of only seeing his family online while he completed his studies in Australia, Mujiburrahman remained positive and determined.
"I read that an estimated 164,000 international students are stuck overseas, so I am lucky to be one out of 63 students to be able to cross the borders and enter Australia," he says.
Once safely returned to Australia, and in quarantine, he wasted no time in returning to his study, even virtually participating in international conferences on disaster risk reduction and sustainability and resilience of coastal management.
I became a speaker at two international conferences online where I discussed my research with an international audience from inside my quarantine bedroom.
A home away from home
Mujiburrahman chose CDU because he found it had the best scholars to support his research on multi-hazard early warning systems. Before COVID-19, the 2-hour flight journey from Darwin to Bali was an added bonus as his wife and children remained in Indonesia while he studied in Australia.
Whilst he has been living in Australia, Mujiburrahman has played an active role in the Indonesian community, joining the Indonesian Students Association (PPIA NT) as the Director for ICT and the Secretary-General for the Indonesian Diaspora Network NT.
He also loves learning about and connecting with the diverse community in Darwin.
“CDU is a university that respects the Indigenous community. During my time in Australia, I want to learn about its history. I am especially interested in the past relationship between the Maccasan, Sulawesi Island in Indonesia and Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory's Arnhem Land”
Making a positive impact
When Mujiburrahman graduates, he will return to Indonesia and continue his humanitarian sector career, applying his new skills and knowledge in multi-hazard early warning systems for the Asia Pacific region.
I will do my best to raise awareness about the multiple hazards faced by Indonesians.
"We can protect more lives, reduce the number of people exposed to hazards and those injured, and decrease the potential economic loss not only by natural disasters, but also the COVID-19 pandemic, " he says.