Borneo: A catalyst to create social change

Christopher Gauthier, Asha Mortel2

1Springfield Central State High School, Springfield, Australia, 2Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Australia

Students trekking through steaming jungles? Free-range Orangutans, river crossings & remote village living? NO WIFI!

THIS is the stuff of nightmares for some, but for Cleveland District High School students and teachers, it’s where big dreams start…

Cleveland District State High’s flagship international partnership with communities and organisations in Borneo demonstrates global engagement at its best. This is where connection with our closest neighbour (Indonesia), leads to true intercultural bonds that support shared learning, meaningful relationships and positive real-world outcomes.

This presentation will explore the school’s innovative global education project and intercultural partnership with Tembak Village, Sintang Orangutan Centre, Borneo Nature Foundation and Nature for Change. Now in its fifth year, this project has seen close to 100 students and teachers working in partnership with villagers and conservation groups, to advance social and environmental outcomes at home and abroad.

Project leader, Mr Chris Gauthier, will outline the motivation, planning and resources behind the success of this program.  He will focus particularly on the impacts of the program for students and off-shore partners; and the personal and educational outcomes achieved by participating students, past and present. He will also be joined by past student, Asha Mortel, who will share her experiences being involved in Borneo and how they’ve impacted her personal and professional growth.

Photos, videos and testimonials will give insight into the deep impact this program is making; including examples of social enterprise activities initiated by students that make a positive contribution to the partner communities.


Chris Gauthier is Head of Pedagogy at Springfield Central High where he actively investigates ways to connect students in global collaborations. Based on his work, Chris was awarded a Smart Classrooms Award in 2011, the Showcase Award for Excellence in Global Engagement in 2016, and the Peter Doherty STEM Award in 2017. Chris became involved with DeforestACTION in 2011 where he engaged students in a global project related to deforestation and environmental issues in Borneo. Chris shared this work most notably in 2012 where he and Dr Willie Smits lead the closing keynote at the ISTE conference in San Diego.

Asha Mortel is a graduate of Cleveland District State High school, who is now taking a gap year after completing her first year of university in 2017. Since 2014 she has travelled over to Borneo four times with Chris Gauthier as both a student and a student mentor. Her work with this program has seen her present at the 2016 Global Issues Network Conference for South East Asia in Indonesia and the 2017 Global Roots & Shoots Gathering in Windsor Castle, England. She has also been awarded a Zonta Women’s International Young Women in Public Affairs award and an Order Of Australia’s Secondary School’s Citizenship Award. Asha is now in her third year as a National Youth leader with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Australia and was lucky enough to spend time with Dr Jane on her Australian Tour last year.

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