28 February 2022

Dr Monita Yessy Wambrauw

Dr Monita Yessy Wambrauw

Researcher and Lecturer at Cenderawasih University
Master of Engineering (Transport Systems Engineering)
Doctorate by Research, Civil Engineering

A chance encounter attending a higher education exhibition in Bali, Indonesia in 2009 propelled Dr Monita Yessy Wambrauw into an incredibly fascinating and rewarding career path in Transport Engineering she could have only imagined.

Having been inspired by the practical nature of University of South Australia’s Master of Engineering and its curriculum’s integrated real-world and soft skill learning for projects – plus the State’s sunny beaches – Monita bravely decided to make the leap to study in a foreign country.

Here she spent many years calling Adelaide a second home, exploring the “well-planned city and public transport systems with easy access to beaches”, growing as an engineer with a specialisation in Transport Studies.

While Monita always loved science and technology, and the fact that you could be exposed to new ideas every day, deciding to pursue engineering, and in particularly transport systems, took on a deeper, more vocational meaning.

Monita and her family visiting the beautiful Sentani Lake of the Jayapura Regency in the Indonesian province of Papua.
Monita and her family visiting the beautiful Sentani Lake of the Jayapura Regency in the Papua.

Monita grew up in a number of coastal towns following her father’s government jobs across Papua, the easternmost province of Indonesia on the island of New Guinea. Living in such a wide range of places, gave her an intimate understanding of just how big Papua is, littered with many isolated tribes and a pronounced lack of connectivity.

As Papua Province is situated on the largest island in the Indonesian archipelago – the geography featuring a range of atolls, reefs and corals, highlands and mountains – the inadequate road infrastructure conditions have also meant higher distribution costs, increasing the difficulty of attaining staple goods at reasonable prices. All throughout her life, she has seen firsthand the impact of transportation on communities trying to simply live their lives.

According to Monita, almost 50 per cent of people in Papua still live in remote and isolated areas with little access to adequate transport facilities. As a result, Monita knows more than most that transportation is a valuable agent of development in all sectors.

“Throughout my life, I have seen many people in my hometown in Papua lose opportunities in education, access to good health facilities, and even have difficulties meeting their basic needs because of transportation barriers,” she says.

Monita wearing a traditional cassowary feather headdress from her hometown of Biak, Papua with her Australia Awards certificate in UniSA’s Pridham Hall.
Monita wearing a traditional cassowary feather headdress to honour her ancestors and tribe from Biak Island in Papua.

“So it has always been my passion to contribute and develop my hometown. To study globally overseas and act locally as Papuan. Engineering is the practical application of scientific principles in ways that improve and enhance people lives.”

The need for reliable development and transportation links in Indonesia, especially in transport systems and civil engineering projects like bridges, buildings, roads and railways, only solidified this promising career path for Monita and made it a worthy and pressing vocation for her.

After earning a Master of Engineering (Transport Systems Engineering) from UniSA in 2011, Monita returned to Indonesia where she worked as an academic and lecturer at Cenderawasih University for five years.

However, as luck would have it, Monita attended another education exhibition, this time in the capital Jakarta in 2015. Here she stumbled across another UniSA stall where she was inspired once again, having fond memories of her previous experience, and decided to return to Adelaide to earn her PhD.

2009 and 2015 Education Exhibition in Bali and Jakarta
(Right) Monita meets the UniSA team in Bali in 2009 as a potential student. (Left) Monita in Jakarta in 2015 as a UniSA alumni getting information about PhD programs.

This time, though, she had a family to think about and was thankfully awarded an Australia Awards Scholarship that enabled her to return.

The Australia Awards Scholarships are an important initiative, supported by the Australian Government, providing long-term development awards to emerging leaders in developing countries. This allows them the opportunity to undertake full-time postgraduate study in Australia in priority fields to build networks to drive change and contribute to development.

“My wonderful experiences living in Adelaide and studying at UniSA for two years is what brought me back. I loved the supportive environment and help I had the first time, I decided to take on a Doctorate by Research in Civil Engineering at the University and relocate again,” Monita says.

“I found Adelaide and its city characteristics so convenient with the set up of the transport system, well-planned CBD with easy access to beaches, vineyards and country towns. The people in Adelaide and the communities were so warm as well.”

Monita, second to right, with her fellow Australia Awards Alumni at UniSA’s City West campus.
Monita, second to right, with her fellow Australia Awards Alumni at UniSA’s City West campus.

“However, this time I also had think about my family and dissertation topic. Adelaide was a recommended place for my family to live because the city itself is kid-friendly and public transport is so easy breezy – the city size and atmosphere is also not too overbearing or crowded.”

“We could enjoy our lifestyle, living as a happy family while I was studying at UniSA, with the affordable cost of living.”

“The city design was also great with children as we could find a playground every two kilometres and it was much safer compared to other cities.”

After settling back in Indonesia last year, Monita now has a senior role as the Secretary of Urban Planning Department in the Engineering Faculty where she is currently working on research projects and international collaborations to improve transport infrastructure across Papua.

Monita (centre) with a group of students from Cenderawasih University participating in a community service program in remote areas of Jayapura, Papua in Indonesia
Monita (centre) with a group of students from Cenderawasih University participating in a community service program in remote areas of Jayapura.

While Monita is hoping to continue to be published in respected international publications, she has also taken what she has learned at UniSA – particularly the importance of industry networking and collaboration in all sectors across academia and technology – and is helping the department to manage and design the curriculum for innovative urban planning.

“The thing that makes me the proudest though, is standing in front of my students now I’m back again working in my hometown and inspiring them to achieve more.”

“It is my honour and privilege to be able to share my journey and hopefully advance our knowledge, developing civil infrastructure and transportation in Papua.”



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