Inspiring Trip to Cambodia for Notre Dame Students

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Summer 12-2-2007

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle

Publication Place



Meeting with survivors of Pol Pot’s infamous ‘Killing Fields’ proved to be an inspiration for five students studying in the School of Arts and Sciences at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle.

The students accompanied by Associate Professor Neil Drew spent 12 days in Cambodia as part of a social justice program run in conjunction with the Catholic organisation, Caritas Australia. The self-funded trip was organised and led by Janeen Murphy, the Western Australian Caritas Global Education Officer. In Cambodia the students were hosted by staff from Australian Catholic Relief which is funded by Caritas Australia.

During the two week stay the groups visited many projects funded by Caritas and other international aid organisations throughout the country. Travelling by bus they covered several hundred kilometres to visit many isolated communities, meeting and speaking with community members about a wide range of issues including HIV Aids, poverty, homelessness, sustainable livelihoods, community empowerment and life in Cambodia since the fall of the Pol Pot regime.

Associate Professor Drew explained that the aim of the trip was to learn more about Caritas work and mission in Cambodia. They saw first-hand how a community can rebuild itself after experiencing such a horrific and destructive event.

“The first place we visited was a killing field outside Phnom Penh. It was a graphic and confronting experience but one that provided the necessary context for understanding the projects we visited over the following two weeks”

“It was an amazing experience, one which provided a huge range of positive outcomes of students and for the University. We intend to make the trip an annual event,” he said.

One of the students, Tricia Green who is majoring in politics and history, said the trip to Cambodia enriched her studies in so many ways.

“Academically the concepts I had been studying, such as grassroots democracy, the politics of globalisation, and genocide were transformed from abstract concepts to the reality of people’s live,” Ms Green said.

“Personally I learnt so much from the people I met, about community spirit and personal empowerment. The trip provided me with vocational direction, as well as some brilliant memories.”

A key goal of the trip was to awaken in the participants a sense of justice and a commitment to spreading the message of our shared obligation to make a positive contribution to world affairs. The students will form the inaugural Caritas group on the Fremantle Campus. They are producing a DVD documenting their trip and will speak at a range of events about their experiences throughout the year.