Coming from a really difficult growing up experience, I never thought I’d be here working for government.
As an LGBTI+ Aboriginal person, I was bullied horribly at school and left early. I grew up mostly in foster care in rural New South Wales. I moved to Melbourne on my own when I was only 14. I was homeless for a few weeks before finding somewhere to stay.
When I was 19, I took on full-time care of my 6-year-old sister. I worked hard to support us and to be a good role model for her.
I was working long shifts in hospitality when I applied for the Indigenous Apprenticeships Program. It was exhausting and I was under a lot of pressure.
When I saw the IAP advertised I was a bit scared about the thought of working for government. I had experienced trauma growing up in foster and government care. But I knew I wanted to make a difference for my communities from within. So I gathered my courage and applied.
I really didn’t think I’d get into the program. I didn’t have any education. I hadn’t even finished school. I had very basic computer skills and some customer service experience.
I remember meeting one of the aunties at the assessment centre. I could see she saw something in me, even despite all that I was lacking. She was very encouraging through the tasks on the day.
The day I heard Services Australia was offering me a position in the program was life changing. I think I even screamed on the phone from excitement.
My overall experience in the IAP was amazing. I learned so much on the job. I had a lot to learn about the public service, work life balance and leadership. I’ve come a long way and I’m really proud of myself.
For me, the biggest challenge during the program was that I was the only Aboriginal person at my office. I feel proud of how I have educated the people around me about Aboriginal culture, but it wasn’t easy. I know I have to stay strong and proud in my Barkindji and Wonkamara heritage. Having an Indigenous mentor through the program really helped. It’s always grounding talking to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I graduated the program with a Cert IV in Government and a permanent job at Services Australia. It’s given me the stability and flexibility to care for my sister. I feel like I’m a really good role model for her. I’m even saving for a house for us and my partner. I never thought I’d be able to buy my own place.
I have big dreams for creating change. In the future, I’d like to specialise in Indigenous payments, policy and services. For now, I know I’m making a difference because I have customers who come back to see me. I do my best to be kind to everyone I meet and I think that makes a difference.
We definitely need more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in government. We need you here creating change from the inside with us. If you’re thinking of applying for the IAP, do it. You may not think you have the strength, but if I can do it, so can you.