Hi, my name is Caroline and I am an Aboriginal Education Officer within the Royal Far West school.
What does your role involve?
As an Aboriginal Education Officer I support individual Aboriginal students and their families/carers within the school – coordinating Connection Circles for families and carers providing a Culturally safe place to share yarns.
An important part of my role is creating wellbeing for our visiting families as they need a sense of belonging while visiting our place in Manly. I am also a member of RFW’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Action Plan team, advising the organisation on its journey and commitment to ensuring RFW provide culturally safe and accountable health, education and disability services to children, families, organisations, and communities. I advocate for equal access to services for all regional families particularly our First Nations families.
What Aboriginal Country do you live/work on?
I am a proud Wiradjuri, Dungetti woman, living on Gai-marigal Country for over three decades. I have been connected to Royal Far West for many decades, living locally as a Senior Knowledge Holder.
Have you seen any changes in the sorts of issues children have during your time at Royal Far West?
My personal observations in the sorts of challenges children and our community face with not having opportunities to express their Culture, not having the rite to their Cultural ceremonies. With all the challenges navigating health, education and services, children moving across many locations for many reasons means this can impact on their social emotional wellbeing factors.
What led you to work at RFW?
I have a history of working the individual and family social services, focusing on mental health. As an experienced health and wellbeing coordinator I have worked in many non-profit organisations, social services and customer services. I am also an Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid facilitator and have a lot of case management experience. I completed Bachelor’s degree which focussed on Aboriginal Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Technology, Sydney.
Can you describe your typical day?
Before families and carers visit RFW at Manly they are provided with information regarding my role as an Aboriginal Education Officer.
At the start of the week, I will meet and greet families and schedule times during weekly appointments and create time to have informal one-on-one discussions.
What do you love about working with families from rural and remote Australia?
I enjoy establishing a family’s connection to places and hearing and listening to their stories of connection.
What do you think makes RFW unique?
RFW is able to link with Education and Health Services including participating in Recreation activities after school time – down time for all and so invaluable for the whole family.
Can give us an example of a family’s positive outcomes through working with RFW?
Following each Connection Circle I hold with families and carers I ask each participant how they feel before entering the circle – rating from 1-10 (1 not too good) each one said “4” then following our yarning circle – weaving activity – Ochre Ceremony we are a “10”. This is a very positive outcome for our community, as they take away/learn a few coping tools like breathing, drinking water (hydration) and are able to practice new healthy habits each day.
Where’s your country? – Where do you feel most connected to?
I am connected to many Countries my special place of Wiradjuri Wambuul Galari and Marrambidya rivers.
Can you share some career highlights from your time at Royal Far West?
Working with Recreational Team and School Team brings many highlights. I enjoy engaging with students outside of the school environment and their clinical appointment times – getting involved in activities like going fishing, tenpin bowling – learning Aboriginal terminology – Yindymarra – respect.