Papua New Guinea
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Bilums bring joy to Australia

BY HELLENDRA MARUSE

This story is one of stepping out of comfort zones and believing that there is always a way to achieving your dream.

And if there’s three words to describe Maggie’s incredible story, they are self-belief, determination, and faith.

During our conversation to bring her remarkable story to life, Maggie (pictured right) mentioned the words ‘village girl’ and that she had liked the words used in the title of her story.

That drew my attention and as I listened, her eyes lit up reflecting on her upbringing in her humble village of Pou, Ramba Road, in Mt Hagen in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

She explained that the words give her a sense of grounding and belonging and as you will read, her humble upbringing, and values instilled by her parents are her foundation that have steered her journey in life.

Maggie’s story is one of self-determination, perseverance, conviction, humility, vulnerability, and her faith in God that resonate throughout her story.

Maggie Timbi is a mother of two beautiful children, a loving wife, and currently holds the role as a Senior Capital and Risk Analyst at the Bank of Queensland (BOQ)’s Head Office in Newstead, Brisbane. A village girl from the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea who has paved her way into the corporate world in Australia.

As we sat down over coffee, the ‘WHY’ she had agreed to sharing her story resonated so clearly as I learnt it was her birthday. It struck me that Maggie had given up the morning of her birthday to share her story because the ’WHY’ ’ was important to her. WHY it is important that such stories as hers are shared; so, we can uplift and give hope if it means to one person who reads this story.

And if we can achieve that, then we are sharing a positive light during a time when our country is facing many challenges.

Maggie’s journey to working and living in Australia began after she had successfully graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Banking & Finance and International Trade at the University of Victoria in Melbourne.

She was awarded a scholarship with Australia Awards while in her 2nd year as an Economics major at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Upon her return from Melbourne, Maggie was offered a graduate role under ANZ’s Graduate Development Program in Port Moresby.

Fourteen months into the role, Maggie had decided, she wanted to return to the University of Victoria in Melbourne to pursue a Master’s in Finance, and subsequently a life in Australia. This was a monumental decision and one that would be faced with many challenges.

Firstly, she had not given 2 years of service yet to PNG, as is a requirement of Australia Awards, and two: she had to source funding to meet her tuition fees.

But these challenges weren’t going to deter her, eager to pursue her studies and dream of working and living in Australia, Maggie would put herself out of her comfort zone, being vulnerable, honest, and trusting God through the process.

Maggie contacted the Australia Awards scholarship office in Port Moresby and presented her case to return to Melbourne to pursue her Masters.

Australia Awards contacted their head office in Canberra and to her relief they accepted her request to return to Australia and pursue further studies.

Maggie was now left with the bigger challenge; how was she going to finance her self-sponsored studies? She mastered up the courage and approached her then manager if she could apply for a personal loan to meet her tuition fees.

With just 14 months into the graduate role, Maggie had little savings and assets to use as collateral to get a personal loan. But to her surprise, her manager agreed to act as her guarantor, to take on the financial risks for the loan.

An act Maggie couldn’t believe and is always grateful for. To this day, Maggie holds so much gratitude to her then manager for believing in her abilities to succeed in her studies and by going out of his way to support her.

Maggie also reached out to a colleague within the Trade Finance Division of ANZ for a possible part-time role with the ANZ office in Melbourne while studying. Again, to her amazement, she was offered a part-time role and with the contract offer and her then manager’s guarantor letter, Maggie was able to secure a personal loan to fund her studies.

Maggie was asked what those moments felt at those different junctures, from asking Australia Awards to return for studies in Australia within the two years requirement, to having conversations with her then manager to seek a personal loan, to asking for a part-time role in the Melbourne ANZ office?

Maggie said she had to step out of her comfort zone, be vulnerable, be honest, and seek out pathways to pursue her studies and dream of working and living in Australia. And I think those moments are important to share, because if we have a dream, a vision, a goal, let’s pursue them despite our circumstances and challenges.

We often follow the norm, the blueprint, the setting stone, but there are options and pathways that can be explored and sought out to achieve our dreams, our goals, and our visions.

After graduating successfully with her Masters in 2009, Maggie had her eyes set on working for ANZ Asia Pacific. So again, she stepped out of her comfort zone, and approached the Head of HR for ANZ Asia Pacific at the time for possible work opportunities.

Thankfully, Maggie was successful in securing a role. Maggie stayed in Melbourne after her studies, started out her life, living her dream and would work with ANZ for 7 years.

This year will be Maggie’s 14th year working in two major banks in two major cities in Australia.

On reflecting on her journey, Maggie is grateful for the people that have helped her at every step of her journey, including her husband, Noel Kera, and her loving family.

She pays gratitude to her parents and remembers her late father who had a strong influence on her life, and whom she shared a strong bond and connection with.

Asked what her final words were to leave with the readers, she said while we face many challenges back home, it is important not to give up on our dreams and goals in life.

The journey may be long and challenging, but once you get there, the fruits are rewarding.

Maggie also has a passion for helping marginalised women in the settlements of Port Moresby. She is the founder of Project 2-Mile, an initiative that she founded in 2020 to empower and support women weave bilums which she sells in Australia and around the world.

All proceeds go back to helping the women in their daily needs.


– Maggie’s work with Project 2-Mile can be followed at
www.bilumsandbaskets.com.au