Bond University student Jon-Paul Hogan is committed to improving the living conditions in the island town of Kirakira in the Solomon Islands, already planning a return journey after just completing two weeks addressing the water and waste issues faced by the developing town.
Jon-Paul, who is studying urban planning at Bond University, undertook a community infrastructure project focused on water shortages and general waste issues in Kirakira as part of his Bachelor of Sustainable Environments and Planning studies, and already has plans in motion to return with a group of planning and property students as part of their Capstone project to further his work in the region.
Kirakira is the provincial capital of the Makira-Ulawa Province and is located on the north coast of Makira Island, and has a population of approximately 40,000 on the island. Bond University has a young, yet strong, relationship with Kirakira region and has been sending teams of medical students to work at the hospital, and outer communities, since 2013.
During his two week visit in September of last year, Jon-Paul found himself up against a number of unexpected cultural and political barriers.
"The main focus of my study trip was to investigate the water and rubbish situation at the Kirakira Hospital and expand my observations out to the station area, however through a series of coincidences I ended up facilitating the construction of an incinerator for the disposal of medical waste," he said.
"Hazardous medical waste had previously been disposed of by burying it in land behind the hospital, so the incinerator provided a much-needed solution to a potentially dangerous problem.
Jon-Paul will be returning to Kirakira on January 13, accompanied by a group of planning and property students to work on an improvement plan for the local marketplace, of which the Premier and Provincial Secretary of Makira Ulawa Provenance are extremely supportive.
"I am really looking forward to returning next week with my fellow students to work on updating the community facilities of the local marketplace," he said.
"The marketplace is located in the centre of Kirakira and is utilised by people from all of the surrounding villages, so by addressing the current issues of waste, rubbish and hygiene in the marketplace we hope to facilitate positive change for the whole area.
"Because Kirakira does not have access to a port, we will also be assessing how to bring materials and equipment to the area in the most efficient and sustainable way possible."
During his previous trip Jon-Paul met Kirakira local, Alex Pwahe, a graduate from Charles Stuart University in the 1990s and self-described 'gorilla-looking rubbish warrior', who ran a recycling program for children called K6.
"K6 was started in 2011 and stands for Keep Kirakira Klean Kids Klub; the name is a mixture of pigeon and 'white man's' English," said Jon-Paul.
"Every Saturday morning Alex and the K6 kids pick up rubbish in the area with the goal of keeping the streets clean, changing the attitude of waste disposal by focusing on child education, and raising money by collecting cans to purchase school supplies for the K6 children.
"I had the opportunity to join the group for a day by helping the children collect cans, and during this time I identified several issues in relation to the waste problem in Kirakira which inspired me to return to the island to continue the work I had started."
Nicole Webb, Assistant Professor of Urban Design and Planning at Bond University, said it was important for students to expand their horizons by exploring broader urban planning perspectives.
"Bond University recently secured Federal Government funding under the 'New Colombo Plan', to provide new opportunities for students to study in the Indo-Pacific area to strengthen knowledge and ties with the region," said Assistant Professor Webb.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for students to be creative and challenge their planning knowledge, as the Solomon Islands has a very different context particularly in regard to climate, culture, funding and planning and governance systems compared to here in Australia."