International Students Life at JCU Student stories George Bopi-Kerepa (Papua New Guinea)

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George Bopi-Kerepa (Papua New Guinea)

PhD (Management and Commerce)

George Bopi-Kerepa

JCU student George Bopi-Kerepa lost his daughter to cancer when he was mid-way through his PhD. He made his daughter a promise a day before she passed away - that no matter what, he would complete is PhD.

A year later, George completed his PhD seven months ahead of schedule. He says it was this promise to his daughter that gave him the motivation and inspiration to keep pushing on, even through the most difficult of times. As George prepares to return home to his family and community in Papua New Guinea, he reflects on his time at James Cook University.

With previous senior roles within the Papua New Guinean government, including the role of Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, George made the decision to pursue a PhD in the areas of service delivery and public sector reform after meeting JCU academic Dr Murray Prideaux and becoming inspired by his research in the area of leadership.

“Service delivery is a huge challenge in PNG,” says George.

George’s field of study is Organisational Change Leadership, and his thesis examines the implementation of education reforms in PNG secondary schools.

George’s studies were supported through the Australia Awards Scholarship program, which provides opportunities for students from developing countries to undertake study in Australia to develop skills and knowledge to drive change in their home country.

As a member of a number of important councils and boards in Papua New Guinea, including the PNG Higher and Technical Education Board, George plans to use his new skills and knowledge to help improve service delivery in the public sector.

“JCU has produced a lot of graduates who now contribute to the development of PNG across all disciplines. There is a big JCU alumni in PNG, and that has encouraged me greatly. My supervisor Dr Murray Prideaux, and my secondary supervisors, Dr Singwhat Tee and Prof John Hamilton, have immensely supported me throughout my study journey.”

International Director at James Cook University, Clare Magee, said George has been a valued member of the JCU community.

“At JCU, we are proud to welcome students from all over the world. Many students from PNG have studied with us, from pathway programs through to PhDs, and we value the contribution these students make to our community and their communities in PNG. We are proud to help them further develop skills and knowledge that they can use as they continue on their education and career journeys.”

George’s time at JCU included living through the Townsville floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The resilience of the Townsville people during the floods was itself a huge learning experience for me.”

George says he also experienced some wonderfully happy times, built friendships, and enjoyed the support of JCU’s strong network of students and alumni. A keen runner, he has participated in a number of community fun runs and has enjoyed Townsville’s relaxed lifestyle.

“There are less distractions in Townsville as opposed to big capital cities in Australia. This allows one to stay focused on their study and succeed.”

George says he is thankful for his study experience at James Cook University, and is looking forward to returning to PNG where he will be working on reforms in the higher and technical education sector.