Connection to Indigenous culture told through stories #NAIDOC2017

Andrew Olsen, Indigenous Employment Consultant

Connection to culture is extremely important to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This week is NAIDOC Week when we celebrate the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. An opportunity to recognise the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to both our country and society. NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

This year’s theme is Our Languages Matter. The theme celebrates the essential role Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water, and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Many Aboriginal people no longer have a connection to their language. To understand why, you have to have a grasp on our shared history. In particular, the forced removal of Aboriginal people from their families and traditional lands in an attempt to assimilate them into white society.

As this week is celebrated through stories, I want to share this story of a KPMG Indigenous Scholarship recipient.

I first had the privilege of meeting Amanda when she applied for the KPMG QUT Indigenous Scholarship. In fact we often talk about why she applied given she was studying a Bachelor of Nursing with a passion for Mental Health. She had initial reservations given her degree was not related to Commerce or Accounting as in the past she had applied for scholarships where she met the criteria only to be told she was unsuccessful “due to other stronger candidates”. After receiving that generic response she often thought, “Was I knocked back due to my degree not being related to that particular business? Would they struggle to find me a role after graduation?”

These are her words from her scholarship application; a story of hardship, resilience and hope.

Amanda

“I have always wanted to be a registered nurse and made a promise to my dying grandfather that I would fulfil this dream. As many do I ‘went off the rails’ after he passed away and unfortunately my schooling suffered. I dropped out of high school and worked casually here and there never really staying in any one job for long.

I met my husband in 1992 and let’s just say the rest is history! I settled down had babies and married but never felt fulfilled with just being a Mum. I decided when my two eldest were young to go back to work and study, and started hunting my dream. I completed a Certificate III in aged care and became a personal care assistant which I loved and continued studying completing Certificate IV in aged care shortly after. Unfortunately finances were tight and I could no longer continue to out lay out the money for any more study. I had to stop.

I continued to work until I was due with my third daughter and shortly after my fourth daughter followed. In 2013 my two eldest daughters wanted to embark on university degrees. Whilst supporting them through the application process, I decided it was my time to finish what I had promised to my grandfather. Despite the odds stacked against me I passed every unit and have a GPA of 6. I am proud of where I am and how far I have come and cannot wait to get out into the workforce.

I am extremely interested in mental health and can foresee myself in a position where I can assist people in their recovery from the ‘monster’ they face day in day out. I do not have a big vision for myself, but I wish to start small (one person at a time) and work up to big (working collaboratively on a campaign to help fight stigma associated with mental illness).”

When people ask me why Amanda was awarded the scholarship my answer is simple. She was the best candidate. She spoke from the heart and demonstrated the values we hope all employees have.

I came to KPMG to work with purpose and a give a better chance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I wanted to break down barriers and provide employment opportunities at one of the leading professional service firms in Australia.

Two years on I would have never imagined the impact meeting people like Amanda would have both personally and professionally on my life. People like Amanda keep me grounded. They also demonstrate to others what can happen when you find your purpose in life.

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