3 things I learnt as an Aboriginal intern

I am a proud Booroobergonal woman of the Darug nation. My mother, too, is a Booroobergonal woman and my father is Croatian.

A little over a year ago, at 19 years old, I started a 6-month internship at ARTD Consultants. During this time, I was exposed to the world of evaluation and public policy and what it really means to be a part of a professional working environment. ARTD has not only set me up with professional skills, but skills I can carry with me for the rest of my life.

Here’s what I learnt in my time as an intern.

1. How to be confident in my culture and background

As a young Aboriginal woman, I always had some connections to my family and culture. However, it wasn’t until I started university that my passion and drive to build my connections and give back to community really kicked in.

Working at ARTD has helped me with this. It has allowed me to meet people from all over Australia and has taken me outside of the bubble of where I grew up. Being able to work with Aboriginal people and communities, listening to their stories and where they truly come from, has shown me the richness and value of what it means to be Aboriginal and given me an even deeper sense of pride.

I was also fortunate to have an amazing Aboriginal mentor, Simon Jordan, who led me through a journey of discovering my identity. He helped me realise that no matter how connected or disconnected you are from our culture, there is always room for you to make your own path and reconnect. Embracing culture and being confident in who I am now gives me the momentum to break the cycle and start giving back to community and country.

2. How to be organic and think on the spot

Early on in my internship, I had the opportunity to go out on field work to collect qualitative data for ARTD’s evaluation of World Vision Australia’s Young Mob Leadership Program.

I learnt very quickly that when out on field work, you never know what challenges you are going to face – from facilitating on the spot to connecting with boisterous students. At one of the first workshops I went to, I was thrown in the deep end when given an on-the-spot chance to help facilitate. I took ten minutes to expel my nervous energy and then it was show time. By the end of the workshop, I was happily leading the reflective discussions.

This experience really boosted my confidence and shone a light on my natural engagement skills. I’ve since helped facilitate focus groups and conducted interviews with students in the program. I’ve found that throwing yourself in the deep end of challenging situations, is probably the best way for me to learn and gain the confidence to field any challenging questions that are thrown at you.

3. How to use work as a place to channel your energy

Life is full of distractions, from university stressors to managing family and relationships. The internship taught me that work can be a great place to focus your energy into something you’re passionate about.

ARTD has been a place for me to grow up – helping to bring balance into my life and fostering a great sense of accomplishment and pride. Excuse the cliché but working here really has taught me that change and adversity can make you stronger and will always teach you valuable life lessons.

Coming into ARTD changed my life for the better – they have supported me through thick and thin over this past year and I am so grateful to be in such a unique and understanding working environment.

What’s next in store?

Following my internship, I came on board at ARTD as a Research Assistant. While I’m still finishing my nursing degree, I’m keen to continue working in the public policy space – learning more about the Indigenous and health policy sectors and evaluation more broadly.

I’m also supporting the development of ARTD’s Reconciliation Action Plan and excited about having a voice in future projects.

PHOTO CREDIT: CameliaTWU on Flickr.

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