Saturday, 27 December 2014

HOME AND AWAY: Kim-Marie Spence reflects on life in Australia and enjoying a change of pace

CATCHING UP: Home on holiday, Spence reconnected with colleagues Everaldo Creary and Carlette DeLeon at Tarrus Riley and Friends.

Since January of this year Kim-Marie Spence has been on an Australian odyssey that's been nothing short of life-changing, opening up her mind to bold new ideas about the creative industries and solutions to weighty problems that are not unique to any particular geographical zone. Enrolled in a PhD fellowship at the Australian National University, based in Canberra, she's practically completed a full year of study already with another two to go at least. And though she's "far away from family" in a remote island-country that's like 13 hours ahead of us here in Jamaica, she welcomes the oceanic change of scenery and the opportunity to dive into an expansive culture almost as opulent as our own, while getting a first-class education. 

"I really like Australia for a number of different reasons," she shares, as we have a chat at the recent Tarrus Riley and Friends concert inside Emancipation Park. (Kim is home on holiday, returning to Aussieland in early January.) "The accessibility to expertise is great and the learning environment is just amazing. You get to see the research and the policy-making strategies and the policies being put into place. It's a very inspiring place to be right now," she reports with wide-eyed fervour. 

Given Spence's history with Jampro and her commendable efforts as Jamaica's immediate former film commissioner, it seems only natural that she would gravitate towards that particular area of study. "I'm very happy about the things we've been looking at so far, like the evolution of the creative industries, the state of the global economy and how they can create opportunities for a country like Jamaica," reflects the former Jamaica Rhodes Scholar, presently in her 30s. 

Of course, all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl, so Kim has made a point of delving into other (lighter) aspects of the Aussie experience — "the running, the hiking and other parts of the culture," which she describes as a melting pot of Pan-Asian and Pacific Island nationalities — which have been doing her some good. 

Reflecting on her time at Jampro, Kim makes it clear that while those years do represent a fulfilling growth period in her life career-wise, it's a chapter she's ready to move on from. But turning the page doesn't mean her contribution to nation-building is now a thing of the past. "I liked my job, but I'm happy where I am now," she explains, with a hint of seriousness in her voice. "In terms of what I wanted to get done, I fought for a lot of stuff. I busted my a$$. I did the best, and I'm happy with what I was able to accomplish for the film industry, especially." 

As for her career ambitions once she returns home from Australia, Kim spies nothing report-worthy on the horizon as yet. But you just know she'll figure something out. "I can't say what I'll do when I come back to Jamaica, but I know that I want to continue contributing positively to the development of the country," she says, emphasizing the supreme importance of taking the long view, adopting a universal outlook, when it comes to matters of advancement, national and otherwise. "You have to think global. If we say we want to move the country to the next level, we have to look at the bigger picture, link and talk to other key policy-makers." 

Asked to sum up her 2014 in a single sentence, Kim-Marie Spence pauses then takes a deep breath. "It's been a year of challenge and change," she says finally, "but I can't complain."

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