From
Nathalia, Victoria
Age
22
Study
Bachelor of Nutrition (Torrens University)
Work
Administration (Melbourne Law School)
Passions
Health, Nutrition, Indigenous Health

Dana’s Journey

Growing Up in Nathalia

I grew up in Nathalia, first on a farm and then in town. It’s a quiet place but it’s also a hub for the area. I went to St Mary’s School, and – due to their collaborative partnership – I was also able to take media subjects through our neighbouring government school.

Growing up rurally gave me a lot of resilience, a lot of patience, and a more relaxed view of the world (except when it comes to driving in the city!). Whenever I leave Melbourne to go home, I feel a sense of relief and a weight being lifted once the smog clears and the city is at my back.

My sister and I were the only Indigenous people in our school. It can be hard to navigate that experience, such as when everyone looks at you in class, expecting you to have answers, when an Indigenous issue comes up. While we had few local Indigenous people to learn from, we joined programs that gave us a better grounding in our history. 

I’m super proud to be an Indigenous woman and to provide any support to those who may need it. Overall, I’ve found most people to be respectful of my heritage and I hope others have the same experience.

Moving to Melbourne for Work

I moved to Melbourne straight after High School. I lived with a family member and immediately began working at The University of Melbourne via their ‘Melbourne Indigenous Employment Program’, an initiative that aims to give Indigenous people the opportunity to work while studying for a diploma. 

This program allowed me to study a Diploma of Management & Leadership, a twelve month course. During that time I was offered a continuing full-time position in the Melbourne Law School’s administrative offices. It was a very lucky turn of events! As of 2021, I’ve been working there for five years.

Returning to Study

Over those years, I’ve been a bit stumped about my future. I’ve had a fear of not living up to my own expectations. I eventually realised I needed to commit to something and told myself to stop being a chicken! Now, I finally feel like I’m doing something that will help me give back to my community and my mob. 

In 2021, I started a Bachelor of Nutrition at Torrens University. I love food, and health and nutrition impact all of our lives. It’s likely that I’ll want to move into teaching in remote Indigenous communities where my focus would be on health aspirations, health expectations, and overall better outcomes.

After taking a long break from study and being in a professional working environment, it was daunting to jump back into education. I wanted something flexible and part-time, and Torrens looked like a great option. My course is entirely online, which works very well around my full-time employment. So far, it’s been great! 

Even if I don’t eventually have a teaching qualification, I’m sure I’ll be able to volunteer and make the impact I want with workshops or similar initiatives. I’ve previously volunteered in the Philippines and the Northern Territory. I’m excited to do more of that in the future once I’m more qualified.

Advice

My main advice is that you don’t have to go on to further study straight after high school, even though that’s the overwhelming expectation. I’ve been very content with working and finding my passions over time, rather than jumping in before I knew myself.

You’re told to go to University and then get a job, like it’s that simple. Life can be whatever you want, so sniff out other opportunities. If they’re there, why not take them?

I believe that study can (and often should) fit in between other things. You need life experience and relationships, not just a piece of paper, so live a full life!

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