People around the world were shocked when the 2018 story broke about a soccer team of boys trapped in a cave in Thailand. But for Trinity College Queensland student Scott Downman it had personal significance.
Scott was not unfamiliar with breaking news, having been a journalist in Australia and abroad. But it was after he’d left the industry when this story personally touched him and his family.
Before 2018, Scott and his family had done mission in the anti-human trafficking space in Thailand. On the family’s third trip to Thailand they became involved with a group that trained local staff to identify “at risk” children, in danger of becoming trafficked.
The staff would build programs around these kids and, among other things, teach them English.
By this time, Scott, his wife Chrissy and daughter Sariah, had become experienced fieldworkers.
“We came back to Australia in 2010 but continued working with them from back here,” he says. “In 2015, a Burmese boy, Adul Samon, was identified as a candidate. He joined the program and started learning English.”
Their daughter, Sariah, started sponsoring Adul’s education.
Just three years later, Adul was one in the soccer team of boys trapped in the Thai cave. It was the biggest news story in the world and one in which Australia’s rescue efforts would prove to be paramount.
Significantly, this young man was the only one of the trapped footballers who could communicate with the rescuers. “With English that he’d learned through the program,” Scott says.
Adul is now following his dream to become a doctor and is finishing high school in the US.
“Sometimes projects have legacies that you can’t ever imagine,” Scott says.
Scott Downman’s career began with a journalism cadetship at The Gympie Times. After a year in London at Channel 4, he returned to Australia and worked with three different newspapers.
While working for a Gold Coast Bulletin bureau in Northern NSW, he spent a lot of time with a Christian photographer.
“We became good friends and through his witness I ended up coming to faith.”
Scott and his family made a dramatic shift several years later, heading to Thailand to work with at-risk children who had grown up in poverty.
The family returned to Australia and a future in Christian work seemed likely. Because Scott was not theologically trained, bible college seemed like a good thing to do.
He completed an initial bible college course before taking on a lecturing role at University of Queensland, teaching journalism. In total, he taught for 15 years, until July 2021.
However, the desire for further theological education was still there, and when he discovered Trinity College Queensland online, he was intrigued by their subjects exploring faith and real-world experience.
“Faith and the Arts particularly interested me because I’d worked in journalism and other creative spaces. I’m fascinated by the intersection of creativity and faith.”
Scott says he phoned Trinity on the off chance he could take his graduate certificate to a graduate diploma and was accepted.
What he found at Trinity was a teaching style and learning atmosphere which he loved.
“It engages critical thinking,” he says. “It’s a deeper learning and understanding.”
“It’s very student-centred the way classes are delivered. You can talk about your own faith and experiences and how that relates to what’s being taught. And there’s a sense of community that I really like.”
Scott says being on the other side of the lectern is not too difficult but there is pressure to be a good student! “I’m at an age where I’m not there to muck around.”
What’s next for Scott? He says he’s remaining open-minded and getting on with his study.
“At Trinity, you’re exposed to different ways of thinking about the world and thinking about the Bible. It’s a brilliant way of opening your mind to God and to what He may want you to do in your life.
“It’s a step that’s definitely worth taking.”