Study Cairns President Janine Bowmaker recognised in Australia Day Awards
Study Cairns President Janine Bowmaker is one of eight community leaders recognised in the 2021 Cairns Regional Council Australia Day Awards.
Ms Bowmaker is the recipient of the inaugural COVID-19 Community Care Award for her support of international students stranded in Cairns as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
‘I am honoured, thrilled and humbled to receive the COVID-19 Community Care Award in the 2021 Cairns Regional Council Australia Day Awards,” Ms Bowmaker said.
When Queensland went into lockdown in early April 2020, Study Cairns estimated that about 2,000 international students were stranded in Cairns. They were without government support and were isolated from family and friends of their home countries.
The #CairnsCares campaign was the brainchild of volunteer President Ms Bowmaker in response to growing concerns for the wellbeing of international students in the region. Ms Bowmaker recognised that international students were in dire need of support from the community that had encouraged them to choose Cairns to further their education.
“Most of our international students had lost their part-time jobs. Therefore, they had limited capacity to augment living costs as they were not eligible for government support packages,” Ms Bowmaker said.
“With no foreseeable income opportunities and studies severely impacted, many students had little possibility of returning to their home countries due to border closures. They found themselves unexpectedly with limited access to funds and little prospect of financial assistance or support from family or their home country’s government. As the pandemic continued, concern grew for their broader health and welfare, including their mental health, as the situation for international students became increasingly dire.”
Under the guidance of Ms Bowmaker, the Study Cairns and Student Hub team worked with funding bodies, local businesses, community groups and farmers to assist students with food, accommodation and mental health support. Study Queensland’s invaluable financial support enabled Study Cairns to implement the project.
“This was a mammoth team effort which would not have succeeded without the generous support of the Cairns community and financial assistance from Study Queensland,” said Ms Bowmaker.
Coordinated through the Student Hub, the #CairnsCares campaign incorporated three key initiatives:
- HubFood: Free freshly cooked meals and groceries provided daily to international students in need.
- HubTV: A livestreamed TV show with international students from around Cairns featuring content such as entertainment, cooking demonstrations and budget tips to help students remain connected.
- HubBuddy: A virtual “buddy” system for international students that assisted them to continue practising their English skills with local families.
These initiatives not only provided support for students stranded in Cairns, but also helped avoid the decimation of the local international education sector.
The Cairns community’s support for #CairnsCares initiative was overwhelming. Students regularly reported how the kindness of the Cairns community positively impacted their lives.
‘It has been a privilege to lead Study Cairns through a tumultuous year and to have such a positive impact on the lives of so many students. The #CairnsCares campaign made such a difference. To hear students say ‘you saved my life’ is truly humbling and will be etched into my heart forever. Every ounce of effort was utterly worthwhile,’ said Ms Bowmaker.
Read more about all the Cairns Regional Council Australia Day Award recipients.