Now in its fourth edition, TGS again saw 16 students and three staff led by Dr. John White for the Deakin University Environmental Science study tour to Borneo. Similar to previous editions of the program the students and staff ventured through jungle terrain in national parks as they conducted field research into conservation and sustainability. The program began with a visit to a palm oil plantation which they challenged their beliefs as they learned about palm oil cultivation, production and sustainable practices. The highlight of the experience was a visit to Batang Ai National Park near the Indonesian border where the group stayed in an Iban village with locals, sharing meals and enjoying cultural activities, while learning about the impact of dams and logging on their livelihoods. The very long journey by bus and river to reach the longhouse was forgotten as interaction with the local indigenous community provided an invaluable learning experience.
The partnership with Sarawak Forestry again included trips to Kubah National park (the most species of frogs in the world in one place) and Matang Wildlife Centre, where the group were again able to participate in the Orang-utan Volunteer program. Site briefings by park managers and up close experiences to local flora and fauna provide increased understanding to the classroom theory. A trip to Bako National Park was next where the students had the opportunity to engage with activities such as tree planting, traditional fish trapping, shrimp paste processing and local culture demonstrations.
Other activities enjoyed by the students was the Sarawak Cultural Village, which provides an introduction tot eh many indigenous tribes of Sarawak, a visit to Tanoti – a social enterprise that ensures the craft of indigenous weaving is maintained, and finally, a kayaking trip downriver that includes swimming and lunch in a Bidayuh village. The feedback from the students was considered and reflective, confirming that the objectives of the academic program were achieved, and provided a deeper understanding of not only conservation issues, but also the local cultural, socio-political and historical contexts of Sarawak.