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The business student with big dreams of her own NGO

This article appears in: Business and Accounting, Community Services and Social Work
CDU business student Etabez at Waterfront Campus

Etabez is studying a business degree at Charles Darwin University. Her two best friends are studying completely different degrees. What binds them together is a pact made in childhood. 

“Each of us chose different academic fields—medicine, law, and business—with the collective dream of one day leveraging our skills and knowledge to establish businesses back in our birth country, Ethiopia, to aid those in need.”

Etabez’s experience as an Ethiopian adoptee growing up in Australia has given her an altruistic outlook on life.

“My natural philanthropic nature, coupled with a desire to give back to both my Australian community and create opportunities for others in Ethiopia, led me to consider starting my own NGO in Ethiopia.”

Using new knowledge for good

Etabez with textbooks purchased for the local school in her rural Ethiopian village through Birtukan's Project
Etabez with textbooks purchased for the local school through Birtukan's Project

To give herself the academic foundations and credibility to create such an organisation, Etabez is studying a Bachelor of Business and a Certificate IV in Community Service at CDU. 

Her business majors in marketing and international human resources management are fields where she hopes to secure a role post-graduation while working toward her ultimate career goal. 

She’s already putting her new skills to good use, both here in Darwin and back in the Ethiopian village where she was born. 

Here on campus, Etabez co-founded the “immensely fulfilling” Women’s Collective for Innovation and Change (WCIC).

Using the knowledge gained from my studies, I initiated a student club that addresses various issues affecting women, providing a safe and inclusive space for all CDU students.

The WCIC advocates for women’s empowerment and equality while also offering skill development workshops and networking opportunities to help students connect to local industry and forge the careers they want.

Back in Ethiopia, Etabez also started a program called Birtukan’s Project, named after her little sister who still resides there. 

“The project has supported the local school in my rural village, which provides education for over 1,200 students.”

In 2016 alone, Etabez raised $3,000 to cement five classroom floors, stabilise the outside footings, and purchase almost 300 textbooks across 14 subjects. 

Eyes on the NGO prize

CDU business student Etabez, a finalist in the 2024 NT Young Achievers Award

Etabez also got a feel for the not-for-profit space when she started volunteering at Melaleuca, a Top End organisation providing humanitarian services to humanitarian entrants and migrants. 

Her aptitude for the work led to a full-time position.

“I helped humanitarian entrants with their settlement process in Darwin and worked with migrants facing various challenges.”

To keep up with her studies, Etabez moved to a part-time role working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. 

My work at Melaleuca has been incredibly rewarding and has given me the skills needed to make a meaningful impact in the NGO sector.

“It has provided me with valuable operational experience and insights,” she adds,

While she continues to make an impact on the lives of her fellow students through WCIC, on the lives of the newest Darwinites through Melaleuca, and on the lives of children in her Ethiopian hometown through Birtukan’s Project, Etabez hasn’t lost sight of her original career plan. 

“Ultimately, my vision extends to establishing a business or NGO in Ethiopia with my two best friends,” she says.

“Together, we aspire to empower our communities by providing opportunities for improvement and enhancing their standard of living.” 

Etabez recently received the Outstanding Academic Achievement in Bachelor of Business in the Faculty of Arts and Society Awards, acknowledging her dedication to her studies and future career goals. She was also named a finalist for the Spirit Super Connecting Community Award in the 2024 NT Young Achievers Awards for her work with the CDU WCIC and Birtukan’s Project. 

Gain the skills to forge the career of your dreams with Charles Darwin University. Study business or community service with us. 

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