Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) Advisory Group member from Tonga, Ms. Mele Taumoepeau, said winning an Australian Endeavour Study Award could not have occurred at a better time.
Ms. Taumoepeau, Chairperson of the Tonga Association for Technical, Vocational, and Educational Training (TVET) said that she returned home to Tonga from Australia, to be appointed as a member of the executive committee responsible for implementing policy and monitoring the first phase of the AUSAID funded project for TVET reform in Tonga.
"I think this must be divine intervention. In this new role, I refer to what I learnt while on the Endeavour Study Award in Australia at every opportunity. My AG colleague, Ms. Mary Hicks, Director of Employment, Education and Training, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is responsible for encouraging me to apply for the Endeavour Award," said Ms Taumoepeau.
As a result of her successful application, Ms Taumoepeau spent five-and-a-half weeks in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, where she met with executives of government departments, industry groups, training groups, and centres for excellence.
Ms Taumoepeau said that her itinerary was very intense, with as many as three meetings a day at the various organisations, including a day with AG member Ms. Janice Febey and her staff at DEEWR (Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations).
"I came back loaded with information and resources from people who were just so generous. They shared with me their strategic plans, operational plans, their environmental plans, their brochures; everything that they had".
"I even attended a three-day impact conference where I learned about 'spaghetti' relationships: the power to know, to negotiate, to try initiatives, which is for everyone and not limited to any government body or any one group."
Ms. Taumoepeau said that this was exemplified by the different Australian states that determined their own directions with the Australian Quality Training Framework and other government policies.
"It is not so much government causing things to run, but all of these other bodies, associations, unions, and training councils working collaboratively to make the system work.
"I was fascinated by that. I come from Tonga, and a very hierarchical society and everything is dependent on people at the top making the right decisions and allowing things to happen. I came away with a much better understanding of the complexities of the Australian system. Tonga may not be able to replicate this, but certainly we can cherry pick ideas," explained Ms. Taumoepeau.
"What I thought was most helpful were the guiding principles: the need for standards, the need for associations to come together to build themselves, the need for training of teachers and capacity building, the need to put students into the industry. I could go on and on about the wide range of possibilities there are"."Winning such a scholarship, along with the wonderful, capacity building experience of participating in the APTC Advisory Group meetings, is one of the outcomes not usually mentioned. I'm so grateful to be a part of APTC," concluded Ms. Taumoepeau.