“In life people will tell you that you can’t do things because they are afraid of what will happen if you can”

Steven is a descendant of the Bundjalung and Yuin Nations of the East Coast of Australia. He grew up in the Mt Druitt area but moved to Canberra when he was young. After finishing school in Canberra, Steven began an apprenticeship working as a stonemason. Steven now works full-time for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in Canberra. He is studying concurrently, at the Australian National University completing a Bachelor of Business Administration part-time. He has been involved with indigenous community programs in Canberra for many years. He has been involved with mental health programs with indigenous youth in Canberra and recently became involved in the Ngambra Circle Sentencing Court. This is a restorative justice project funded federally that is underpinned community solutions and the opportunity for counselling for indigenous people who have committed minor offences. It is an alternative to being dealt with as part of the civil or criminal system, and has had great success in preventing people from re-offending.

Steven completed the Certificate II course in 2005 as one of the youngest people on the course at that time. He believes that undertaking this program early in his life allowed him to push himself to develop and be challenged. Since his participation in the course in 2005 Steven has continued to achieve remarkable things. In 2005-2006 he was selected as one of 17 members of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group, advising the Australian government on Indigenous issues affecting youth. From 2006-2007 he worked for the Foundation of Young Australians where he sat on two grant committees. In 2009 he was selected to participate in the development of the National Congress of Australia’s First People. Then, in 2011 he was selected as a government delegate to attend the World Indigenous People Conference on Indigenous Education in Peru. He had the opportunity to discuss the educational issues for indigenous people in South America and how they are being addressed. This experience further fuelled Steven’s interest in indigenous education. In May 2012, Steven was a participant at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 11th Session in New York.  He had been trying since 2002 to go the United Nations, so to finally be involved ticked a big dream off his checklist. Following that experience Steven is keen to build more opportunities for youth to be involved in such proceedings on an international level.

Steven expressed that at the time he began the AILC course there were few development opportunities for young indigenous people. Leadership development opportunities were few and far between at that time. Steven found that the course helped him realise his potential and gave him the basic tools to improve his own life and that of his community. He has since been able to set goals, and has pushed himself to achieve to show other blackfellas what is possible.  The course gave him the opportunity to build lifelong relationships with other participants and encourage others in his community to achieve their own dreams.

 “… You can do what you want to do. And I’m doing it man. And I’m not afraid to try; if I fail I’ll get back up and try again”

 Steven describes his own background as marginalised. He grew up in a family context of domestic violence, and his mother died at a young age. Steven says that this meant he had to take care of himself and grow up quickly, while also trying to search for his identity and work out what direction he wanted to take. He believes that he was lucky to have done the course when he did, which helped support him through this process and helped him to determine his personal vision.

Communication skills were a key skill that Steven developed over the course. He believes that the network and friendships and the flow-on effect from these links is one of the biggest benefits of the course. Working with a diverse group of people on the course challenged his own thinking and developed his ability to work with other people to ac. By the end of the course, Stephen felt like he could do anything and that he had the support and encouragement of the network of people on the course. He believes that the strong communication and networking skills learnt in the course have helped him to get the opportunities that he has subsequently had. It has made him comfortable to put himself out there without fear of failure.

Stephen’s personal vision was impacted by his involvement in the Certificate II course. He says he has grown in self-reflecting and has learnt to not be so hard on himself. His ability to view the world through others’ eyes has supported him to understand others and work towards improving the lives of those in his community. He now lives every day as it goes and his achievements as a young person are remarkable. Steven is a role model for younger members of his family and indigenous youth generally. He has paved the way by proving that you can achieve anything you apply yourself to if you have the will to do it.