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National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees


The best thing about my job is the relationships I get to grow – with colleagues, stakeholders, and with places. I have learned so much from spending time with people, visiting new Country and hearing stories.

What's your job about?

NIAA’s vision is that Indigenous people are heard, recognised and empowered. In practice, this happens through making policy around economic and social issues, working with other government departments and influencing if/how they consider the impacts of their work on Indigenous people. It also involves managing grants for organisations that deliver services in communities around Australia. 

I currently work in the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme, which is all about recognising the harm and trauma experienced by Stolen Generations survivors who were removed from their families or communities in the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory. The Scheme offers financial redress, support services, and the opportunity for a survivor to tell their story, all of which can help a survivor’s healing journey. 

I’m in a policy team, which means I work to bridge the gap between the written legislation and how it plays out in practice. What that actually looks like is my team of problem-solvers and question-answerers help our colleagues work out what to do in different situations. My team’s day-to-day might involve answering emails from colleagues, getting legal advice from the NIAA lawyers, writing policy advice, communicating with other departments to get their help or share our experience, and supporting our branch manager with the information she needs. All of this is to help the Scheme run smoothly and make a positive difference to the lives of Stolen Generations survivors and their communities. 

What's your background?

I grew up on Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul Country – in a small town at the end of the Brisbane Valley. My childhood home really shaped me. I was initially drawn to learning more about Indigenous issues because I wanted to think about people’s relationships to place in the lands now called Australia. 

During my studies I had the privilege of learning from some incredible Indigenous teachers, as well as from Pacific Islander activists and academics who shared their perspectives on Indigenous empowerment in Oceania. I’ve always wanted to do work that connects in with my Christian faith and ethic of practical love, and because of my teachers at uni I began to realise what that might look like. After I graduated, I worked as a university tutor for a semester, then started working in the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, before getting into the NIAA grad program. Now, I can’t imagine doing work that doesn’t involve getting alongside Indigenous people and communities. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely. One of the things I love about my grad cohort is we have people from lots of walks of life and training in teaching, psychology, humanities, stats and data, law, etc. 

I love hearing the journeys of older colleagues too, who have come from cultural institutions, Aboriginal legal services, post offices, DFAT, social services – the list goes on. The important unifying factor is our commitment to partnering with Indigenous people and communities to achieve better outcomes. On a more day-to-day level, if you are adaptable and keen to learn, you’ll definitely be able to work out the public service ways of doing things, and discover how to contribute your unique skills to your team.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the relationships I get to grow – with colleagues, stakeholders, and with places. I have learned so much from spending time with people, visiting new Country and hearing stories. The resilience, love, generosity, practicality, and dedication of the people I’ve worked with inspires me and humbles me every day. It’s so important to keep that relational aspect strong, because that’s what grounds you and ensures policies are more likely to be effective and empowering.

What are the limitations of your job?

One limitation is that public servants can’t always get too involved in social or political advocacy. We need to do our jobs well and impartially, even if we have strong personal feelings about an issue, and the public needs to be confident that’s what we are doing. It’s important to have mentors you trust around you, who can help you navigate what it means to be a public servant and remind you why you do what you do. 

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • You don’t have to have a clear career vision to find work you care about – in fact, being curious and eager to try a variety of roles is a strength because it means you won’t be a one-sided professional. 
  • The public service (especially a grad program) can be a great place to start your career because you get trained up and invested in, you learn how government works, and it opens up opportunities you couldn’t even imagine. 
  • Take time with the people you meet, sit with them, listen, and allow yourself to be changed by what you learn.