inaIna Bradridge has a passionate vision for her country. She wants to bring high quality education to the Timorese people.

Having just graduated with a Master of Indigenous Studies, she now wants to embark on a Master of Education degree, and use her skills and knowledge to help other Timorese people get an education.

Ina was presented with her degree by Southern Cross University Chancellor John Dowd at a graduation ceremony in Sydney at the Wesley Conference Centre.

The Occasional Address at the ceremony was given by Abel Guterres, Consul General of The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

“I am just a village girl who got lucky,” Ina said.

“I have had the encouragement, mentoring and scholarship support from Southern Cross University to come to Australia to better myself.

“But what about the thousands of other Timorese men and women who have not had this wonderful opportunity?

“Because of our country’s history of invasion and fighting for independence, education has suffered terribly. About 66 per cent of the Timorese people are illiterate. They can’t read or write.

“There are also many Timorese people working in professional capacities who do not have the skills or education to adequately deal with the complexities of the issues they are being faced with.

“Their skills need upgrading and broadening if they are to meet the challenges facing the nation.

“But almost before we can deal with the education problem, we need to deal with the even bigger issue of recovering from the trauma of war and the subsequent destruction of our Tetun language and culture by invading forces.

“People are still dealing with the pain of the grief of having lost loved ones and the suffering caused by the destruction of the land and the rich traditional peace-loving culture.

“In the past, conflict between villages was solved through a clear process of independent mediation we know as ‘matte biti bot’. People sat in a circle on a big woven mat and talked issues through.

“But invading forces taught us about guns and bombs and we have lost some of our traditional peaceful processes. These need to be resurrected.

“But it is hard to move forward if you have lost your roots, your traditional knowledge, and if your identity as a nation has been eroded. Plus, if you can’t work through your anger, sadness and grief, you get stuck physically and emotionally.”

Supported by Professor Judy Atkinson, head of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Ina has been teaching components of Southern Cross University’s Diploma of Community Recovery to a small group of AusAID-funded community workers in Timor-Leste.

The pair have also run courses helping people to deal with loss and grief, based on Professor Atkinson’s expertise in trauma and healing.

So far, five components of the Diploma of Community Recovery have been run, with another due to start in May.

Ina hopes that the course will soon become an integral part of the training for the country’s health services, teachers, police and military forces, too.

She hopes the course will enable workers in both the government and community sectors to become skilled in helping people develop the strategies they need to recover from the traumas they have suffered, and that it will encourage natural leaders to develop.

As much as possible, the courses are being taught in Tetun, to make them more accessible to a wider group of Timorese.

Ina’s next goal is to help develop the nation’s literacy and numeracy skills and to progress tertiary education opportunities. She hopes to work with Southern Cross University to find organisations prepared to help fund her dreams for the Timorese people.

PICTURE: Ina Bradridge, who graduated with a Master of Indigenous Studies in Sydney, and Southern Cross University’s Chancellor, John Dowd.