Primary focus on cultural immersion

University of Newcastle bachelor of primary teaching student Renae Lamb is hoping things click when she goes offline to meet Jack Ma, founder of what is considered the world’s biggest internet business, Alibaba.

A mother of three and proud Wiradjuri woman, Renae is part of a group of 30 undergraduates chosen as part of the Ma and Morley Scholarship Program for 2019.

The scholarship program was founded to honour the life-changing friendship between business tycoon Jack and forward-thinking Novocastrian Ken Morley. Jack initiated the program with a donation of $26 million to Newcastle University last year and included the Morley name out of respect for the patriarch of the family that hosted him in New Lambton in 1985.

Renae will participate in the “China immersion experience” as one of the scholars travelling to Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong to meet the billionaire entrepreneur.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” Renae said. “I would never be able to go overseas otherwise. To be able to go to China and learn about how the country is structured and how policies work, and then to bring it back to Australia into my classroom with an understanding of another culture is amazing.”

Renae will have the opportunity to showcase her indigenous identity to Jack and other influential leaders in the form of modern Aboriginal dance, which encourages everyone to join in.

The invitation to perform an Aboriginal dance on an international stage in front of Jack led Renae to recall an experience from an indigenous workshop for teachers and schools.

“[The workshop] ensures it is being taught respectfully and in the right way within schools and in a school environment,” she said. “I couldn’t believe there were teachers from overseas and that Aboriginal dance was being taught, not only in Australia, but globally.”

Just as Ken helped to shape a young Jack’s way of thinking back in 1985, the scholarship, as it was intended, continues to shape and encourage a new generation of young people who can initiate change and open their minds to see the world differently.

Renae is hoping to set an example for her young children.

“I was in a really tough time in my life and I was questioning should I go back to university,” she said. “I prayed for hope and strength to be a good mum and to achieve something in my life to show my kids.”

As a proud scholar of the Ma and Morley program, she joins a family of influential leaders and like-minded change-makers.




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Natalee Bonomini

Natalee Bonomini is a Newcastle writer.

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