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Teaching new ways
Author: Christina Sexton
For Bachelor of Counselling graduate Peter Suka Ririma, the opportunity to study at ACU’s Melbourne Campus was quite literally beyond anything he’d ever dreamt. Born and raised in a remote village in Papua New Guinea, Peter is a dedicated teacher and school counsellor who is committed to helping his community.
Winning an Australia Award scholarship, a prestigious prize administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs, was a turning point in Peter’s life. The scholarship gives people from developing nations an opportunity to learn skills that drive change and development in their own countries.
The privilege of study
“Winning that scholarship meant everything to me,” Peter said. “It really was a divine blessing. I grew up in a rural, remote village with illiterate parents. I’d never given a single thought to the privilege of studying somewhere like Australia.”
By completing his counselling degree in Australia, Peter’s teaching career at home grew in ways he didn’t think were possible.
“Before the scholarship brought me to ACU, I was limited to a certain extent in my career as a teacher counsellor,” he said. “After I completed my Bachelor of Counselling, I was much better placed to perform my role as a welfare officer for the students in my care.”
Peter works at Don Bosco Technical School (DBTS) in Port Moresby, helping Papua New Guinea’s most vulnerable youth.
“DBTS is mostly for students who’ve been rejected by other schools. Many of my pupils are difficult students who are facing a range of problems that impact their lives enormously. They often have poor academic grades, behavioural issues and discipline problems,” he said. “Don Bosco provides these students with a second home – and a second chance in life.”
ACU Chancellor John Fahey presents Peter with his Alumni Award.
Possessing advanced counselling knowledge and professional qualifications has been an incredible help to Peter. “It’s given me the right tools to really reach out and assist the underprivileged young people in my school,” he said. “I’m able to ask them more challenging questions about the issues in their day-to-day lives and help them with their self-reflection.”
Beyond school walls
In addition to his professional support work at DBTS, Peter had always hoped to give back to his local community beyond the school walls. Turning his desire to make a difference into action, one of his biggest achievements to date is establishing Yate Rawame Community Day, which is an annual series of local events that help educate his community about the issues that matter most to them.
“The idea for Community Day actually came to me when I was at ACU,” he said. “It’s a three-day event that focuses on community hygiene, the local economy and education. Hygiene knowledge is particularly important for those living in remote areas, and I wanted to help people practice basic healthy living habits.
"For the economy, I wanted to share how people can generate an income to sustain living standards and we provide budget and finance tips. And for the education part of the event, we cover important issues such as HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence, disability awareness, and law and order, which includes discussing politics, corruption and elections.
“During the three-day event, we also encourage activities and acts of service, such as community cleaning, planting flowers and trees, and showcasing village products. We have a talent show and interdenominational church services too. I’m so proud to see my people benefit from the event.”
With an eye on his next challenge, Peter has set his sights on establishing his own counselling service.
“I want to register my own trauma counselling practice to help as many local people as I can,” he said. “I want to upgrade my knowledge with a masters in my near future and I’m hoping I get a chance to return to ACU.”
Taking advantage of every opportunity to advance his education has always been Peter’s priority, and he tries to lead by example for his students.
“Anything and everything is made possible by education,” he said. “My hope for my students is they prioritise their own schooling and work extra hard to learn as much as they can to find their rightful place in the world.”
Peter won the International Contribution Award in ACU’s Alumni Awards 2018. He graduated with a Bachelor of Counselling from ACU.