Career showcase for First Nations students

June 24, 2024 BY

Mount Gambier students Alisha Cram and Jazmin Bingham travelled to Garramilla/Darwin to join 28 First Nations students from schools across the Northern Territory and South Australia to attend the Work Exposure in Government (WEX) regional program for 2024.

The WEX program allows students the opportunity to embark on a week of insight into the many employment opportunities offered in the Australian Public Service (APS).

Alisha (pictured) was representing Mount Gambier High School and Jazmin is a Grant High School student.

Alisha opted to be part of the program as she looks to narrow down her options post-Year 12.

This program helped me with learning about other career pathways,” she said. “I also saw this as an opportunity to learn more about my family’s culture.

“I have realised that there are many job pathways that I can take that will complement what I am wanting to do when I am older, with one of these pathways being a year 12 leavers program that runs for 12 months, where I can work in one of the Government Departments that participates in the WEX program.”

Jazmin was alerted to the WEX opportunity by her teacher Hannah Fox.

“I would highly recommend the WEX program to other First Nations students interested in pursuing careers in the Australian Public Service sector,” Jazmin said. “This program helps to grow leadership and personal skills. WEX helps to provide pathways and direction into sectors such as the Australian Defence Force, STEM and other Government Agencies.”

The week kicked off with a team-building challenge at the Darwin Waterfront, fostering camaraderie among the students. Cultural connections deepened with a Saltwater Ceremony led by Larrakia Elder Dr Richard Fejo, who welcomed WEX organisers, mentors, and students.

Dr Fejo shared stories of the Larrakia people, their deep connection to the land and sea, and the significance of preserving cultural heritage.

This ceremony set a profound tone for the week, grounding the students in the rich history and traditions of Larrakia Country.

The itinerary for this year’s regional program supported the students’ career aspirations, with visits to the Larrakeyah Defence Precinct and presentations from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO), and the Member for Solomon Luke Gosling OAM MP.

Meeting with Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel provided hands-on learning with the students participating in an exciting exercise aboard a patrol boat.

The NIAA-hosted career expo featured representatives from seven Commonwealth agencies and departments, offering students a deeper understanding of the variety of roles within the public service.

At the Career Expo, APS employees yarned with students, offering tailored guidance.

The program also emphasised social and cultural connections, ensuring students felt supported.

A cultural night concluded the week, providing a lasting memory of empowerment for the students, mentors and organisers.

WEX regional is a fantastic opportunity for First Nations students to see the scope of Government services outside Canberra.

The Australian Government has funded the WEX program since 2010. The program is currently administered by the NIAA and delivered by Indigenous business, ETM Perspectives.

Alisha enjoyed the tour around the HMAS Coonawarra navy base, where they spoke to us about what careers we could have in the Defence Force.

“Other highlights were going out in small groups on one of the smaller Navy boats and participating in a team building exercise on a water based optical course,” Alisha said. “The objective was not to finish first but work as a team to complete the course.”

Jazmin said the program highlighted the job opportunities in the public service as Aboriginal students.

“We were made aware of the opportunities for further education to help reach our career aspirations and goals,” she said. “We connected with and built relationships with businesses across Australia and gained access to networking resources.”