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WEX: a week of learning, leadership and career planning


Large group of Indigenous young adults and their teachers sitting and standing on a lawn outside a large building and in front of a tree.
2017 Work Experience in Government Programme participants visited many places in Canberra including the National Museum of Australia
7 Apr 2017

When making the all-important decision about a career path, the more information you have, the better.

In late March, 52 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from around Australia travelled to Canberra to learn about career opportunities available in the Australian Public Service (APS).

The year 11 and 12 students were hosted through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Work Experience in Government Programme (WEX) and enjoyed a series of events and activities designed to inform them, but by experiencing different activities, persuade them.

Small group of Indigenous young adults with non-Indigenous man in office with windows and Indigenous painting in the background.
At parliament house, the students separated into groups and met with various politicians including Senator Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The WEX participants visited many Canberra institutions including Parliament House, AIATSIS and the Australian Defence Force Academy where they met with career advisors and senior APS officers.

Patrick Hedlam, a Bardi Yamajiti young man from Derby in Western Australia said he saw the programme as a great opportunity to learn how the government works.

“I learned that within the government there are multiple branches you can work in,” Patrick said.

“Even within the defence force there are multiple opportunities, not only working as an officer but in business, in admin and that kind of stuff.”

The final event of the four-day experience was a career expo where the students mingled with job advisors from 29 Australian Government departments and agencies. As they perused the many stalls, they not only learned about career options but the various Indigenous recruitment programs available to them.

Several Indigenous students stand at stall with non-Indigenous woman facing them with other individuals in the background.
The career expo offered the Indigenous students a chance to learn about APS job opportunities and Indigenous recruitment programmes.

Ammbigai Muir, a Wongi young woman said she wanted to be an inspiration to her family back home in Leonora, north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

“I joined the WEX programme because I wanted to develop more leadership roles and the skills that you need to be a leader and be more confident in public speaking,” Ammbi said.

“I learned a lot about being proud of who you are and a lot more history behind Aboriginal people and all the different roles that there are in government.”

William Bernard, a Yawuru and Nyikina young man from Broome in Western Australia said he wants to join the navy and was glad to receive information about that. Like many students in their last year of school, he hoped his future would be spent doing something he enjoyed and was passionate about.

“I’ve learned how to become a better leader from my peers and my mentors. I’ve learned how to work well with a team,” William said.

White paper bag with a logo of a crown sitting on a seven pointed star and the letters AFP and words Australian Federal Police, sits on a table next to pens and pamphlets with other material in the background.

Neil Marshall, an accompanying teacher for some of the 52 students is a Nyul Nyul man from the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome. As a former public servant himself, he could see the value of the programme.

“As young people at the commencement of this programme, a lot of them didn’t have much of an idea as to why they were here. A lot of work was done early to actually inform the students about the purpose of the camp,” Neil said.

“They are starting to understand some of the language, making the connections between how federalism in Australia works in terms of the link between parliament and then the government agencies and then beyond that. They’ve been able to start to understand the different roles and opportunities that are available to them out there.”

Find out more

A good education is essential for a good future. Getting children to school, improving education outcomes and supporting families to give their children the best start in life is a major priority for the Australian Government.

The Work Experience Programme is delivered by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) in partnership with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF), and ETM Perspectives. The program is fully funded through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy.