It’s not everyday you receive a glowing job reference from Australia’s Foreign Affairs minister.
Courtney Organ certainly wasn’t expecting it. She received a call from the New Colombo Plan alumni group while she was in the library studying for her final year at Griffith Business School.
“Her internship was two months in a town in southern Japan where she worked for their tourism organisation, she designed their website, she worked on their marketing campaign and she said she learnt more about Japanese thinking, culture, lifestyle, way of life than she could have ever dreamed,” Ms Bishop told the audience.
“She was from Griffith University, she’s now back concluding her studies, and what a fabulous potential employee she will be.”
When Courtney recovered from her initial shock, she had just one thought: “I have to tell my mum”.
Courtney Organ is in her final year of a Bachelor of Business with Honours, majoring in Marketing.
If you had told the young woman from Alice Springs that she’d finish university with a range of leadership experience and 10 stamps on her passport, she probably wouldn’t have believed you.
“I didn’t do so well in high school,” she said, admitting her housemate had to explain what a ‘7’ was on her first year university transcript.
She was invited to join the Griffith Honours College and, taking the initiative, she made an appointment with college manager Dr Jeanne McConachie who “opened up a world of opportunities”.
“At that stage, I didn’t even have a passport,” she said.
Courtney was the recipient of New Colombo Plan mobility grant, spending two weeks in remote Samurai village in Japan. It was that experience that eventually convinced her to say ‘yes’ to applying for a year-long full scholarship in 2015.
During her time overseas, she created marketing campaigns and business strategies for the region – as Julie Bishop hinted at in her speech.
The acknowledgement from the Federal minister came during a week that proved to be a game changer for Courtney, who was offered a graduate position with the Northern Territory government just two days prior.
“I knew I wanted to go back to the Territory and use my degree to make a difference,” she said.
With university almost behind her and a new job just months away, Courtney can’t believe where the past five years has taken her.
“I had no idea how amazing it was going to be,” she said.
“I struggled with self-doubt and low confidence. But through being mentored, pushed and encouraged – I began to realise that I could do all of this.
“I feel more confident throwing my hat in the ring, there’s no more ‘what if I’m not good enough’?'”
Among her other achievements, Courtney is also president of a public speaking club and was asked to give a speech at a recent event.
She shared a story that perhaps best reflected the change she’d undergone while studying at Griffith University.
“At 17, a friend gave me a small Eiffel Tower figurine from a trip to Europe. I went out and took a photo of the statue in the desert, convinced that was the closest I’d come to the real thing,” she explained.
But, following a leadership conference in the Czech Republic earlier this year, she found herself with time to visit the iconic monument in Paris.
“With the support Griffith has given me, I’ve gone from someone who doesn’t believe they have a bright future, to someone with endless opportunities.”