PACOS Trust is a community-based organization dedicated to supporting indigenous communities in Sabah, Malaysia.

PACOS Trust sees itself as an organization that strives to empower indigenous communities through systematic building and strengthening of community organizations, which can act collectively on its own. They also realized the need to support networking among organizations struggling to assert right over community resources and revitalizing indigenous systems which is what they are currently striving to do.

For more information about this organisation please refer to the PACOS Trust website.

Students interested in participating in activities with PACOS Trust need to have great teamwork skills and work well independently. They will also need to be resourceful, view challenges as opportunities for growth, and work well in cross-cultural environments. Law activities can be particularly rigourous, requiring a strong work ethic, interest and academic skills.

All PACE International activities at PACOS Trust include a 4-5 day field trip to the surrounding villages. Student must be able to manage basic (safe, clean and homely) living conditions and have a basic level of fitness to undertake the field trip.

Activities with PACOS Trust provide student with experience in:

  • Interest in indigenous rights
  • cross-cultural awareness
  • research and data gathering skills

Accommodation: Students will share a 3-bedroom guesthouse located in a rural village about 10 minutes drive from the PACOS Office. Breakfast and dinner will be provided at the guesthouse, cooked by local village women. WiFi is not available at the accommodation.

Activity Timing*: Winter Vacation (June - July), Session 2 (September)

Activity length: 4 weeks

PACE Units*: ARTS3000, LAWS4052, LAWS8099, MQBS3000, SSCI3010, GEOP3800

*Please note: unit availability, timing and activities are dependent on partner needs and are subject to change. Not all units are offered each session.

Location and highlights 

PACOS is an acronym for ‘Partners of Community Organizations in Sabah’ who have been operating out of Kampung Tuavon for over 25 years. Situated in the biological hotspot of Sabah, Malaysia, PACOS are passionate about preserving their traditional way of life.

Students will experience a 4-5 day field trip to the outlying villages of Sabah. The field trips provides students with the rare opportunity to view and experience the amazing remote areas  including the breathtaking forests of the Maliau Basin and the Danum Valley Conservation Area. They will also meet and engage with the local communities and observe a way of life not readily seen on the tourist trail. Conditions can be physically demanding, but the professional and personal experience is very rewarding.

Previous Activities


Students collated evidence and data on the social and economic history of an indigenous community based in Sabah for a report on native customary rights (NCR). Through their work, the students helped to preserve the story of the community and to aid PACOS Trust in providing legal advice.

LawStudents created documentation to preserve institutional knowledge of successful native title claims. This included a review and analysis of the recorded material, along with an interview of legal professionals and community elders.
Social researchStudents researched and documented a language that is only spoken in the Kiau Forest. The boundary of the community was eroding due to deforestation and it was feared the community’s connection to the forest language might disappear. Students documented the reason the language is different in the forest and used it as a tool for the future preservation of the forest.
Social researchWorking with 6 different villages in Sabah, students developed a social impact assessment on the proposed establishment of a hydro electric dam in a remote and pristine area of Sabah. The dam would impact on the displacement of over 2000 indigenous people residing in the area. The aim of the students' report was to look at alternatives to the dam and the social impacts on local communities if it were to proceed.

This decision reflects a similar decision that has been made in respect to Macquarie International student travel.

This means that all PACE International in-country activities (including student-nominated activities) in Session 1 and Winter Vacation will need to be cancelled.

Our students’ health and safety is our primary concern at PACE International.

We understand this news will be quite disappointing and some of you may have queries or concerns regarding your unit enrolment.  Please contact our teams at PACE International, or your appropriate Faculty, if you would like to discuss this further.


PACE International applications are open to all currently enrolled students at Macquarie University. To be eligible you must:

  • Have completed one session at Macquarie University
  • Be enrolled – or eligible to enrol - in a PACE unit as listed in the Partner search on the PACE International website
  • Hold a Weighted Average Mark (WAM) on or above 60* (LAWS units require a LAWS WAM of 70* or above).
  • Be assessed as suitable using the PACE International Selection Criteria

* If you do not hold the minimum required WAM you can apply for special consideration in your application form.

Please note that placements are allocated based on number of places available at the partner organisation, students’ skill set, student preferences and unit requirements. While we aim to place all eligible students, some placements are very limited, and applications will be considered competitively. Please also note that activities and partners are subject to change.

In assessing your suitability, PACE International will review all components of your application including your application form, academic transcript, CV, and referee report. We may also seek advice from your home Faculty, Student Wellbeing, and/or Macquarie International.

If your WAM is under 60 (or under 70 for LAWS), or if your transcript lists Academic Caution or Disciplinary Issues, you will need to complete a special consideration form alongside your application to provide further information.

In some cases, we may require additional information to properly consider your suitability and may invite you to either submit additional supporting documents or to attend an interview with PACE International staff.

Before I apply

  • Use the PACE International Partner Search to learn more about our opportunities
  • Receive academic advice to see how a PACE International activity will fit into your degree
  • Check you meet the eligibility requirements
  • View the PACE International information session online or visit one of our drop-in sessions
  • Read through the Application Top Tips for advice on submitting your best application
  • Review the Example Application Form to plan how you will answer application questions
  • Refer to the Ethical Volunteering Guide for more information about ethical community engagement and how PACE International works internationally.

How do I apply?

  • Submit an online application form during the key opening dates and apply through the Current Opportunities page.
  • Select your preferences for host organisations (if applicable). Please research our partner organisations before you apply.
  • Attach to your online application a copy of your curriculum vitae (CV), your academic transcript and the contact details of your referee

An automatic reference check will be sent to your referee on submission of your application. Once you have submitted your application, you will be notified via email on the outcome of your application.

Application Timing

SessionApplicationsOverseas Activity
Winter VacationFebruaryJune-July (4 weeks)
Session 2AprilSeptember (2-4 weeks)
Session 3JulyJanuary (4-12 weeks)

Activity Cost

PACE International managed activities incur an activity cost. The Activity Cost is dependent on the location, work requirements, time frame and duration of your activity. Additional costs, not included in your activity cost, are paid for directly by you. Financial support is available through grant funding.

  • Accommodation
  • Pre-departure training
  • In-country orientation
  • In-country management
  • Airport transfers
  • Travel insurance for activity duration
  • Field trips
  • International airfares
  • Visa (where applicable)
  • National Police Checks
  • Unit tuition
  • Vaccinations (where applicable)
  • New/renewed passport (where applicable)Personal travel insurance and all related expenses for personal travel and leisure activities
  • Incidental living and travel costs (e.g laundry, transport, souvenirs)

Funding options

There are a range of funding options available to assist you with the associated costs of a PACE International activity. For more information on eligibility and application requirements see the Funding tab on the PACE International website.

Contact us

Phone: +61 2 9850 4473
Instagram: @mqpace

Make an appointment or attend a drop-in session: If you would like to speak to a PACE International staff member, please email us at

Student experiences - Perri Reynolds

What do you study and where did you go on your PACE International activity?

Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Criminology – Sabah, Malaysia (PACOS Trust)

What was your role or project at your host organisation?

My role at PACOS Trust was to act as a Legal Intern in relation to matters of Native Title Land Rights in Sabah and to ultimately produce a report including a case study of a local communities’ struggle in protecting their land rights against corporation interference.

What attracted you to the PACE International program?

What initially attracted me to undertaking PACE International was the prospect of being able to put my legal skills and knowledge to the test within an international setting, and having the opportunity to help benefit communities in Sabah seemed like the perfect chance to do that. However, ultimately, I would say that what really attracted me to undertaking PACE International was the prospect of challenging myself to do something different and to step outside my comfort zone.

What advice would you give a student who is thinking of applying for a PACE International activity?

Definitely do it. I cannot think of a single reason why you shouldn’t apply for a PACE International opportunity. It has literally been life changing, invigorating, and has shaped me as a human more so than I would care to admit!

What was the best part of your PACE International experience?

The friendships I made and the confidence that undertaking the activity gave me in pursuing a career in law. That and the amazing food whilst I was over in Malaysia!

Student experiences - Lyle Tamlyn

“My PACE experience in Borneo was amazing, and something that I certainly would not have been able to do outside the programme. It helped me build on my capacity to adapt to new working environments and allowed me to meet so many inspiring people. It also gave me the opportunity to put my academic knowledge into practice, greatly contributing to my knowledge of the discipline. Being able to produce a report that should meaningfully assist the communities we interacted with was definitely the highlight, and something I will value. The greater PACE initiative, and long-standing relationship with PACOS is something that Macquarie should be proud of! ”–Lyle Tamlyn

Student experiences - Ashlee Taylor

“My experience in Malaysian Borneo was nothing but positive... I learnt so much in such a small amount of time... I am proud of what I achieved and will forever remember my time there. I will treasure the friendships formed with both my fellow students and the PACOS staff. I will miss my days in Malaysian Borneo” –Ashlee Taylor

Student experiences - Lizz King

"Applying for a PACE International project was the best decision I’ve made in my undergraduate degree, as it gave me an incredible opportunity to travel overseas, experience the workings and structure of a grassroots NGO, and engage in international human rights law, as well as domestic Sabahan land law... My experiences in Borneo helped me develop the courage and skills to live and work overseas and immerse myself in a different culture, and as a result of this incredible internship I have recently been selected to work at the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You never know where a PACE International project will take you, or how it will shape your life, so take the leap and apply! You won’t regret it." – Lizz King,

Student experiences - Anna Glen

"PACOS trust is a wonderful organisation that conducts meaningful work and has friendly staff. The feeling of community and support in this organisation cannot be understated; PACOS is more of a family than an organisation. From the moment I started I felt welcomed and supported and could sense their passion for indigenous land rights... You learn so much more than a textbook could ever teach you!" –  Anna Glen

Student experiences - Nigel Khine

"No other program in the university allows you to go overseas and engage in this life-changing experience. The people you meet, the places you go and the cultures you see will challenge views and understanding of the world. Although the program was of little cost to us, our work had the potential to drastically change the lives of others, for the better. I would definitely do it again." – Nigel Khine

Student experiences - Kerstin Siegmund

“The trip to Sabah has been one of the highlights of my degree. I can’t recommend it enough to others to participate in a PACE international experience. The preparation for the activity was great and the incountry support too. The skills and knowledge I have gained will definitely be beneficial for my future personal and professional development. ”–Kerstin Siegmund

Student experiences - Nicholas Wasiliev

"This experience has been one of the most life-changing experiences. Before this trip I was struggling with university and couldn't see any worth in my work. This trip has reminded me of how important our work is, how lucky we are, and how much we can contribute to the world. Without a doubt one of the best experiences I have ever been involved in, and I cannot stress enough how useful this trip has been, and I now look to the future, not with dread of finishing my degree, but with optimism of being able to go out and make a difference to peoples lives. I resolutely recommend this experience." – Nicholas Wasiliev

Student experiences - Thomas Lyons

"I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of achievement and satisfaction at the completion of our report compiled for the local native community we had been working with for the past month. After the one week field trip to the community, it no longer became a university project I had to complete to gain credit points. It was bigger than that. After meeting the people and hearing their stories, I began to feel a personal and professional obligation to give my absolute best effort to help them in their struggles." – Thomas Lyons

Student experiences - Nathan Winter

“PACE International is an opportunity that few get to experience. I would encourage anyone offered this opportunity to take it. You come away feeling elated at the prospect that in some way you have been able to help. You are broadening your understanding, while acknowledging the importance of life. It is an environment I wish you all to acknowledge and understand, as it is environment that has opened my mind to the nature that is life.”–Nathan Winter

Student experiences - Jessie Strange

"This is experience was the most incredible thing I have done. I have learnt so much about myself. Everything I've Learnt in a classroom at uni  does not compare to the feeling I got when I completed a report that was soley researched by my team and I. I was fully supported and had the most incredible trip." –  Jessie Strange

Student experiences - Naomi Gibson

"PACE International gave me an opportunity to safely and comfortably work in an area I never would have otherwise - with wonderful people (both locals and other students) from whom I learnt so, so much. I have come away with both professional and personal skills that will be invaluable in my life looking forward. I'm so glad I grasped one of the last opportunities I will have to undertake study overseas." – Naomi Gibson

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