Amazing relationships and great opportunities for students in Sabah

Associate Professor Sandie Suchet-Pearson has just got back from a fascinating trip to Sabah, Malaysia, working with PACOS Trust to extend existing research relationships for our third year geography students. She recounts the journey here:

From 15 years in the Malaysian military to bee-keeping and organic rice farming – what a fabulous story for me to hear on the banks of the Kadamian River, in the village of Tambatuon in Sabah, on the island of Borneo in Malaysia.

walking sabah

I was in Sabah for a 5 day trip with PACE International. As convenor of our third year capstone PACE unit GEOP380: Human Geography in Action, we were discussing research projects for our students to conduct with Indigenous communities. Our students come to Sabah for 4 weeks in September-October and are hosted by PACOS Trust, an amazing NGO which aims to enhance the ability of Indigenous organisations to act collectively on their own.

What an inspiring organisation PACOS is, filled with passionate and welcoming people who always look after our students so well. On this trip we could see where their inspiration comes from, the amazing Indigenous communities they work with! From the fledging organic farmers of Tambatuon, trained by PACOS and already seeing the quite literal flourishing fruits of their labour (or more specifically bags of tasty rice); to their cooperative establishing a small community business based on fried banana chips (yum!).


From the community of Kiau, at the very base of the sacred Mount Kinabalu, with the responsibility of looking after the Guardians of the Mountain to the fabulous Kivatu Farm adjacent to PACOS offices – the centrepiece of amazing organic farming training and opening our eyes to the usefulness of luffa for washing the dishes! And of course the stunning Kipouvo Homestay, where our students stay in such amazing surroundings and with incredibly generous hospitality and comfort.


Our lucky students have already done some amazing work in these communities and on this trip we heard about other exciting projects the communities and PACOS would like our students to work on. We also met with Dr. Gaim Lunkapis from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, an alumni from our Department who helped to foster Macquarie’s original engagement with PACOS. After touring the expansive and stunning UMS campus we cemented our commitment to a 3-way relationship between UMS, PACOS and MQ. Thank you so much Emily, PACE International and PACOS for this great opportunity to forge longer-term and deeper links between our students, the Department of Geography and Planning, PACE, PACOS and the communities they serve so well.

Email Sandie if you’d like to know more about these opportunities:

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