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Edith Cowan University (ECU) Western Australia

Established in 1991, ECU is known for its industry-relevant teaching and research, supportive study environment as well as its award-winning facilities. From 2006 to 2018 the university has collaborated with ecotourism tour operator Borneo Eco Tours, award-winning ecolodge Sukau Rainforest Lodge and non-profit BEST Society, in various community and environmental projects around Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. This was made possible with ECU’s Foundation Professor Ross Dowling AM who together with his wife Mrs Wendy Dowling AM, led four student groups from the ECU Tourism and Hospitality faculty to experience Borneo through their involvement in meaningful projects and ecotourism experiences. The student groups that visited Sabah involved a total of 81 ECU staff and students.

September 2006

The first student group arrived in September 2006 for their ecotourism field trip. They donated 50 chairs to Terongkongan Village and RM 1,000 worth of iron roof to Mompilis Village to improve the villages’ infrastructure for the communities there. A total of 19 students were involved in the community project in Kudat, Sabah. At the same time, the students and staff took the time to immerse themselves in the culture of the Rungus tribe of Kudat. In addition the group planted a number of trees along the banks of the Kinabatangaan River to help return the vegetation to its natural state. In this way the pigmy elephants will be able to use this area as a wildlife corridor as they migrate up and down the river.

The group also adopted the orangutan ‘Sogo-Sogo’ at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.


April 2011

Another cohort of 17 students journeyed through Sabah to discover ecotourism at work. Much of their trip was accompanied by Borneo Eco Tours’ Managing Director and BEST Society Founder, Albert Teo, who is also an Adjunct Lecturer and Fellow at ECU.

During their time in Sabah, the student group had the opportunity to be involved with the “Living Water project” where they donated A$2000 to purchase water pipes that they used to help install in the village of Terongkongan Darat in Kudat. The “Living Water project” which is a joint project between the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu and BEST Society ultimately aims to provide a sustainable source of groundwater to three separate villages in the Kudat District through the construction of two drilled bore wells equipped with pumps to draw water from the aquifer and three water tank towers to store and reticulate water to the surrounding area by gravity.

The group also visited a virgin coconut oil processing centre in Kimihang Village which is part of a community project through social entrepreneurship by BEST Society.  Following this, the ECU group also visited a traditional long house on Tindakon Dazang Beach which is an eco-tourism project developed by a local entrepreneur at Kampung Terongkongan, Kudat. Thereafter, they visited Emmanuel Home which houses underprivileged children from the surrounding area.  Here the ECU group donated books to the children and learnt how a community project literally changes lives. The student group also visited the Lower Kinabatangan and stayed at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, where they participated in a tree planting project to replant and restore deforested areas.

April 2014

Three years later, Ross & Wendy Dowling returned to Sabahwith another group of 17 Tourism and Hospitality students. This time they were accompanied by Albert Teo throughout the entire 10 days of their study tour.

As in previous years, the group made their way to Kudat for cultural exchange activities with the communities there. The group also made a community contribution to a student hostel in Sikuati Kudat, Asrama Bantaran Joy Centre (ABJC).  The ECU student group donated English books to the ABJC Students as an encouragement to learn English, In addition they donated 20 bunk beds worth RM 6,000 to improve the living conditions of students at ABJC. The bunk beds’ supplier, Mr. Chung of Temalang Enterprise also contributed six mattresses to ABJC.

The ECU group then visited the Kimihang Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) Processing Centre, as the previous group did in 2011. Much has progressed for the processing centre since and there, the students got to learn about the extraction process involved in producing virgin coconut oil through demonstration by Mr. Ronnie Onginjan, the Kimihang VCO Entrepreneur.

Another project that the group participated in that year included the Kinabatangan Wildlife Corridor Rehabilitation Program KWICORP, Tree Planting Project which is an ongoing project by BEST Society, BET and SRL to regenerate riverine forest corridor along the lower Kinabatangan River. Aside from the “Tree Planting Project”, the group also donated English books to Sukau Primary School students and painted the community hall together with the villagers in Sukau Village, spending a total sum of RM 2,708 on paints and tools.

In addition the group made a donation to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre through the partial sponsorship of an endangered Sun Bear.



In 2018, 14 more students visited Sabah together with Ross & Wendy Dowling for their study tour. Just like their previous study tours, they participated in cultural immersion activities during their time in Sabah and visited the Kudat district. This time the group visited the Kiulu Farmstay, an integrated ecotourism destination located in the district of Tuaran, to experience the ecotourism work that is being done there under the guidance of Borneo Eco Tours.

The group also visited and stayed at Sukau Rainforest Lodge at the Lower Kinabatangan and participated in the ongoing tree planting project in Sukau under BEST Society.   The group also adopted the orangutan ‘Tombi’ at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan and donated RM3000 to the Borneo Land Conservancy. In addition they donated RM2000 to the Starfish Malaysia Foundation for the purchase of Kitchen Equipment at Hostel Sunflower in ?????. They also made a donation of RM600 to the Sandakan Memorial Scholarship Trust at St Michael and All Angels Church in Sandakan.

Contributions from 2006, 2011 & 2014 Tours

Edith Cowan University has worked with the non-profit organisation Borneo Ecotourism Solutions & Technologies [BEST] Society (www.bestsociety.org) now for over eight years on a number of community projects. During this time our ECU students have worked with BEST to provide poor remote and rural communities in northern Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia on a range of projects including:

  1. Providing roofing materials for the Mompilis Community Village longhouse (2006)
  2. Providing chairs for the Terangkongan Laut community centre / church (2006)
  3. Providing water pipes for the Terangkongan Laut community so that approximately 1000 people now have water piped to their homes (2011)
  4. Providing books for the children of the Terangkongan Laut (2006), Sabah Tea (2014) and Sukau (2014) Communities as well as for the children of Emanuel House, Kudat (2011) and the  Asrama Bantaran Joy Centre Student Hostel, Sikuati (2014)
  5. Providing beds for 40 underprivileged students at the Asrama Bantaran Joy Centre Student Hostel in Sikuati (2014)
  6. Providing paint and painting services to paint the Sukau Village Community Hall (2014)
  7. Providing educational books and toys for the children in the communities of (2006),  (2011) and Sikuati, Sabah Tea and Sukau (2014)
  8. Planting trees along the banks of the Kinabatangaan River as part of BEST’s Conservation Project in order to return the river banks into their natural vegetation so that it forms a wildlife corridor for the region’s pigmy elephants in 2006, 2011, 2014). The success of this project has been recorded by BEST (bestsociety.org)
  9. Providing a donation to the community run Coconut Oil factory at Kimihang
  10. Providing a donation to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre through the partial sponsorship of an endangered Sun Bear


  1. Datu Thomas Lau
  2. Jacob Woods
  3. Belinda Roach
  4. Michelle Noronha
  5. Baton Bijamin
  6. Jaini bin Ahmad
  7. Edith Cowan University