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Tuesday, 12 Sep 2023

Parliament House inspires future students at Work Exposure in Government Canberra

Amelia Devine presents at WEX Canberra, with (L-R) Robert James Eggmolesse and Bessie Aragu-Bailey Photo: ETM Perspectives.

Parliament House in Canberra became a highlight for Work Exposure in Government (WEX) secondary students visiting from 3-8 September 2023, inspiring some to consider a future in politics.

Among these students was Amelia Devine, a Torres Strait Islander student now living in Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast , who expressed her newfound interest in politics thanks to WEX.

‘Because of WEX, I've been thinking about a political career. I had no idea about it, and just seeing Question Time opened my eyes to the fact that they are not always serious and care about injustice and respect,’ she said.

This year's WEX Canberra program welcomed over 50 First Nations students in grades 10, 11, and 12, giving them a firsthand look at careers within the Australian Parliament and public service to help them make informed career choices.

Their itinerary included visits to the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Defence Force Academy, the Australian Federal Police, and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

The War Memorial visit held emotional significance, as students paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, symbolising the unity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous soldiers in wartime.

For Amelia, it was particularly poignant, as her Torres Strait Islander grandmother remembered her grandfather 'going off to war then losing contact with the family.'

Additionally, a Careers Expo hosted by the National Indigenous Australians Agency featured representatives from 17 Commonwealth agencies and departments. Amelia's perception of government work changed, as she found the people to be welcoming and friendly. She remarked, ‘I can see myself working in a government job in the future.’

The Careers Expo was an opportunity for agencies to engage with the students to promote career pathways in their organisation

Connecting with other Indigenous students was a crucial aspect of the WEX program. From the moment they landed, students engaged in conversations about their backgrounds and culture, 'straight away, even at the airport, everyone was like, what mob are you from?' said Amelia.

A smoking ceremony welcomed them, fostering a sense of community, 'it was just like one big WEX family with a unique opportunity to connect with culture'.

The program included a culture night ‘where students danced, and people came over to play the didgeridoo for us,' Amelia said. 

Amelia encouraged future students to embrace the WEX program, saying, ‘It's an excellent opportunity to learn about both government careers and your culture. Participate because no one's judging you. Dance along. Get involved; it has been the best experience.’

The WEX program has received funding from the Australian Government since 2010 and is currently organised by Indigenous business ETM Perspectives, funded by the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

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