From growing up on the streets in Tanzania to winning the 2017 International Student of the Year, UTS student Linus Faustin has worked hard to stand where he does today. His passion for social justice, inclusion and diversity has seen Faustin recognised at the NSW International Student Awards for his outstanding contributions to the community.
At 22 years of age, communication student Linus Faustin has been on the Junior Council of the United Republic of Tanzania, he’s been camp leader at the UNESCO International Youth Summer Camp in China, he’s travelled to New York for the International Model United Nations with UTS’s UN Society (thanks to funding from UTS:INSEARCH) and was selected in 2016 as a NSW Multicultural Youth Ambassador.
At UTS, he’s also been involved in the “Racism. It stops with me” campaign, Peer Networking and Community Connections programs, Batyr and the international student channel on Vertigo TV. Faustin continues to work hard to promote awareness of issues facing young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds in Australia and is a powerful voice for young people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
With so many achievements under his belt, it’s hard to believe Faustin was orphaned at three years of age, and at seven was living on the streets in his home country, Tanzania. But it’s this personal story of survival that has fueled his passion for social justice on a global scale.
Since first visiting Australia in 2013, Faustin was set on studying at UTS. He says, “I remember walking in for Open Day and I was like, ‘I’m going to go to this university’.”
But things weren’t so straightforward for an international student, explains Faustin. “It was so difficult to apply and at the end of the day I didn’t have good grades,” he admits. “But then they told me about UTS:INSEARCH.”
UTS:INSEARCH, working in partnership with UTS, offers English courses, diplomas and UTS Foundation Studies to help students prepare for university. It’s this pathway that allowed Faustin to step straight into the second-year of a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Public Communication) in 2016.
“This is what I tell people,” he smiles, “if you make it into UTS that’s great, but if you don’t make it and you start at UTS:INSEARCH, that’s even better! They prepare you for university and give you opportunities to achieve so much – then you come to UTS and achieve even more!”
Studying communication means a lot to Faustin. His relationship with the industry goes back to when he held a position on a local radio show in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania when he was 10 years old.
“I was talking about human rights, just giving my view as a child on the radio. It was a great experience,” he says.
From here, he began to build his profile as a social justice ambassador on various councils and committees, before social media became an integral part of sharing his story.
“I wanted to make a change in Africa,” he explains. “I actually wanted to be a film star.
“I was so interested in film and the media and I would read and watch everything from Africa – but it was always about war, about fighting, about rape – there was nothing about anything positive. I thought to myself, ‘If films unite people, maybe I could motivate people and it could help make a positive change’.”
L-R: Linus giving an interview, participating at the International Model United Nations in New York, in Sydney Harbour
It’s not hard to understand Faustin’s desire for change growing up in East Africa. A 2002 population census revealed that nearly 10 per cent of all children in Tanzania were orphans. That’s close to 2 million children.
“I lost my mum and dad and my sister when I was three, then in 2001 I moved to the city to stay with my uncle, but things did not go well at all,” remembers Faustin.
“My uncle had been a soldier, but he was jobless so life was very difficult and I was mistreated very badly.
“I was going to a government school but often my uncle wouldn’t let me leave the house until I had cleaned the compound and fetched water. It was hard because if I didn’t stay at home I would be punished; but if I was late to school I was also punished!
“When I went to school I remember I was the only kid that had no shoes, and instead of a school bag I just carried a plastic shopping bag.”
When Faustin learned his uncle planned to return him to the remote village he came from, Faustin decided to run away.
“Life on the street wasn’t easy,” he admits. “You need to think about food, shelter, and also you fear that someone may harm you at night.
“I used to wake up at 5am to go to a mango tree. Sometimes fruit would have dropped during the night so I would try selling it or doing odd jobs to get money.
“I was surviving, but I wanted to go to school and I wanted to have a better life.”
After facing difficult times on the street and relying on the charity of churches, Faustin finally found permanent safety at an orphanage.
“I walked to a radio station and I told them my story. It was aired in Tanzania and published in newspapers and that’s where everything changed. From there I was taken to an orphanage,” he explains. “The volunteers there were from Australia, so that’s where the connection between Australia and me starts.”
Linus in 2016.
In 2003, after years of inconsistent and sparse schooling, Fautsin was finally able to attend school regularly. In 2008, aged 13, he was invited to the Junior Council of the Republic of Tanzania as an ambassador for orphans and street kids. It was a role he would continue in for several years.
“We would travel all over the country talking to different government leaders, talking about action activities, and talking about our rights. To be honest, we made a lot of changes,” he says proudly.
“We said that there should be no canes for punishment at school, and that was great. And then in 2010 we were even able to meet the president! That was the best.”
Faustin was also selected by the government to represent Tanzania at the East African Community Youth summit in Rwanda.
“There were people from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya. For me, it was great because at the time people under 18 made up 51 per cent of the population, so being selected was an honour.”
Faustin’s involvement in social justice initiatives as a teenager allowed him to travel to Dubai, China and North Korea as a group leader with other students.
Now, in Australia he hopes to complete his tertiary education and further his goals of working in communication and politics to promote social change.
“It’s going to be challenging, but I am really excited about what I will achieve.
“As young people we are so lucky to be getting an education in Australia. We live in a world of technology where we have knowledge and power. But how are we using it?”