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Sharee’s journey to 2017 National NAIDOC Apprentice of the Year

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Two young Torres Strait Islander women standing with a background of plants. The young woman on the left is holding a large blue plate.
2017 National NAIDOC Apprentice of the Year Sharee Yamashita (left) with Vonda Malone, Mayor of the Torres Shire Council.
23 Aug 2017

Sharee Yamashita’s commitment to completing her apprenticeship whilst being a young mother has been an inspiration for others.

From Thursday Island, Sharee finished high school by correspondence after having a baby, then moved to Cairns to pursue a university degree in Business Accounting. At the same time, Sharee’s partner got a job with mining company Rio Tinto in Weipa on the west coast of Cape York, Sharee decided to apply for an electrical apprenticeship with Rio Tinto, as one of her female cousins was also a diesel fitter in Weipa.

Although Weipa was a long way from home, Sharee relished the opportunity to work for a large company in a place where she felt connected.

“My dad’s mum is a Thanikwith woman, who are traditional owners of the area around Weipa, so I felt connection to the country,” Sharee said.

“And doing my apprenticeship with a company as large as Rio Tinto means that there were a lot of different areas I could work in and see how a big mine operates.”

Now she has finished her apprenticeship, Sharee is planning for the future.

“There is a long term plan to finish my business degree and perhaps go into engineering but I’m enjoying being an electrician so I’m taking every day as it comes.”

Winning the 2017 National NAIDOC Apprentice of the Year means that Sharee is now a role model for young women, Indigenous or not who are considering a career in non-traditional careers and industries; a role she is embracing. 

“This award has already opened up new opportunities for me,” Sharee said.

“I’m being asked to speak at schools and at after dinner events about my journey. Having a kid so young meant that I was looked down on and judged by many. I used to be really shy but this has really boosted my self-confidence and now people look up to me and I’d love to help other young women to chase their dreams.”

Find out more

Visit the National NAIDOC website or Facebook page for more details about the event and award winners.

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