Project broadens student horizons
IF it wasn’t for the Brolga Project, Tia Mitsis might never have made her way to Emerald, or any rural town for that matter.
The 29-year-old jumped at an opportunity in 2009 to undertake work placement in Kingaroy for one month and test out life in a regional area.
Since then she was offered a job in Emerald and has been living in town for just over a year.
Richard Cowley created the Brolga Project two-and-a-half years ago to address the skills gap in regional areas and provide opportunities for university students like Tia.
Richard said he had noticed there wasn’t much opportunity for students to trial living in regional areas before finishing their degrees.
“We use work experience to get young people from the city into the country, let them have a sample of what life’s like, and then we try and get them back into a regional career when they graduate,” he said.
“I personally found it very daunting ringing around for work experience while at uni, so that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Tia was looking for a work placement as part of her law degree while studying in Brisbane and said the Brolga project just popped out at her one day on her university careers board.
Because she had always been “a real city girl” Tia said she jumped at the chance and looked forward to trying something different.
“It was great to experience life in another area and it opened my eyes to possibly living there,” she said.
“Not only did it give me a chance to work in my field for a placement, but it took me out of my comfort zone and into rural Queensland. I had never been west of anywhere before.”
Tia undertook a one-month placement in Kingaroy, where she worked with a government department doing court work.
Before long they offered Tia a permanent position in Emerald and she happily accepted.
“For me it ended up being the best thing I’d ever done as I went on to find a job with the organisation I had my placement with,” Tia said.
She urged others to give the Brolga Project a go.
“It’s given me the chance to travel to other areas and network with other people and it has definitely broadened my horizons,” she said.
While 50 students have been placed in regional areas for work experience around Queensland, Richard said he was looking to further develop the Brolga Project.
“The project is working, but we need to put some momentum behind it,” he said.
Richard said there was an “enormous range of students” who had taken part so far, including students of law, journalism, accounting and speech pathology.
“There’s an enormous pool of international and national talent right here at our fingertips, and the quality is exceptional,” he said.
Richard said work placements varied in duration and that each one was unique.
“It really depends on what the student is looking for,” he said.
“The longest has been three months and the shortest has been three days.”