Our stories: Aboriginal people working in NSW Government

See the profiles of proud Aboriginal people serving communities in vital roles across NSW Government.

A group of aboriginal and torres strait islander women sit at a table with a computer

Acknowledgement: We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands where we work and the places in which we live. We pay respect to Ancestors and Elders past and present. We recognise the unique cultural and spiritual relationship and celebrate the contributions of First Nations peoples to Australia.

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 Alex - Teacher


Classroom teacher - Alex Richardson-Bell

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Classroom teacher - Alex Richardson-Bell

Alex Richardson Bell: 
That was my main thing, like to prove to kids that whatever they set their mind to, they can do. And I'm just happy to sit along for that ride and watch these young people, like myself, grow into the great humans I know that they can be.

My name is Alex Richardson Bell. I'm a proud Wiradjuri man, and I'm a teacher at Buninyong Public school.
When I left school in 2012, when I graduated I should say, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. Mum was working in a school at the time and she said, ‘Hey look, why don't you hand a few resumes in.’

And I handed one in at Buninyong and it was only supposed to be a short-term gig. I obviously impressed a few people there and I was just put on 12-month contract after 12-month contract. 

And from there I started doing my degree at the same time and I was bit really unsure about, you know, like, ‘Oh, can I really be a teacher, little boy from, you know, grew up around the hood.’

But Anne really pushed me. She was a catalyst there. Yeah, she was always just that little spark to, you know, keep me pushing through.
And it sort of led me to where I am today.
I just kept taking strides forward, and now I’m a teacher.

 (Alex speaking to class)

Anne Van Dartel, Principal of Buninyong Public School: 
Alex is a wonderful member of our school community and that's really important when we have 58% of our students come from Aboriginal backgrounds.
Part of his role when he was working in our school before graduating, he was a paraprofessional and he actually wrote a culture programme that was linked, linked to Wiradjuri language. So he taught that across the school.
The man just embodies a proud Aboriginal man who is a role model for all our students, just not boys. All our students.

 (Class sings “Head shoulders knees and toes” sung in Wiradjuri language)

I really noticed that with the kids here like when we actually delivered that language programme to the school, just that connection straight away that I didn't have as a kid.
And I loved seeing that too, because not that I was deprived of it, it was just I always wanted to do that, always wanted to know more about my culture.
And I never really got it until I did that language course and really go out and find those family members that could teach me a few things.
And then when I brought that here and AEOs delivered that with me to the school…
You can just see, like they had the same joy that I got as an adult, but they had it as a kid and just makes it so much more special.
I never thought that I could get my teaching degree, a degree in general. 
And now I'm a teacher and I'm in front of 22 great students every single day, impacting their life in a positive way every single day.
Yeah, the feeling that you get, you can't, you can't put words to it.
It's yeah. Magical, magical. [Ends]

See Join our mob (nsw.gov.au) on becoming a teacher in NSW schools. Read more on Aboriginal education in NSW schools

Peter - Firefighter 


Firefighter - Peter Jensen

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Firefighter - Peter Jensen

Hi, my name is Peter Jensen. I’m a qualified firefighter here at Campbelltown. I’m also a proud Aboriginal man from Far North Queensland. I’m a Tjungundji man from right up the top of Australia. I was born and bred up on the Atherton Tablelands.   

When I was a young person, I’d never seen an Aboriginal firefighter. A fire truck used to come to the school and out of the fire truck, all white Anglo-Saxon men would come, so it wasn’t in my mind that Aboriginal men could actually be firefighters. 

I’ve always been interested in working in the community. Previously, I worked in juvenile justice and for Family and Community Services. I worked at TAFE New South Wales.

A friend of mine that was working in the fire brigade came and saw me and he told me about a program that was starting up called IFARES and said that they could give us support. Twelve months later, I became a qualified firefighter.

Being an Aboriginal firefighter is really important, especially with the responsibility of role modelling within our communities. My son and my daughter both want to be firefighters now. And so we've started to lay the platform for Aboriginal people seeing it as a possible career option.

I remember the first time I jumped into the truck, and we’re driving out, the sirens going, your adrenaline starts to pump and your heart rate gets up, and you get a bit frazzled by it. But the more you work in the job, the more you become settled in the role, and the expectation from the community and what you can provide to them. 

Now going out to a house fire is unfortunate for the people involved - But as a firefighter, there's nothing better to do than to get your hands dirty. 

Initially I was stationed at 10 station in the city, Redfern, I know Aboriginal families from all around NSW bringing their children to 10 station which is Redfern, and they would beep their horn and I would walk to the window, and I would wave at them, and I would run downstairs and invite some of the children in to jump through the truck.

So having those connections, those streamlined connections through culture and identity with our community is super important to make sure that our communities are kept safe.

I work out here at Campbelltown at the moment. We're a pretty busy station. We do a lot of house fires. We do a couple of building fires here and there. We also do a lot of car accidents, a lot of pet and domestic rescue. We do a lot of assist ambulance.

It's great being out at Campbelltown, developing and working on my skills. 

Here at Campelltown we have four Aboriginal firefighters. The Campbelltown area has a high population of Aboriginal people. We get to go out into our schools to teach fire ed. We go out to Aboriginal primary schools and talk about fire safety and also engaging with them, and hopefully they grow up to want to be firefighters also.

We've got the IFARES program still up and running, but we're also looking to pick up retained firefighters from all over country and rural New South Wales  - so people in Walgett, Burke, and Brewarrina. We have an opportunity there to pick up some deadly Black fella firefighters to join the ranks. 

I’ve been a firefighter with Fire and Rescue New South Wales for five years. The journey has been amazing. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to save a couple of animals. A number of times, we’ve saved a number of people. We’re doing our patrols and engaging with the community.  I still love my job, I see it as a career for the rest of my life. In 10 years time, I'm probably going to move out of the fire station and hopefully into the college or into a role with Fire and Rescue, more in the community side of things. [Ends]

See Fire and Rescue NSW for information on the Indigenous Fire and Rescue Employment Strategy IFARES (nsw.gov.au) 

Tamarla - Nursing 


Nursing with NSW Health - Tamarla Smith

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Nursing with NSW Health - Tamarla Smith

Tamarla: I’m Tamarla Smith, a young proud Aboriginal woman. I was born in Armidale, and my family is from Burra Bee Dee mission near Coona, Gamilaraay Country. I’m in my third year of my Bachelor of Nursing at the University of New England. 

When I was in my last year of high school, I applied for early entry and got in for nursing. I didn’t know I wanted to do nursing until I did my first practical, and I just fell in love with it. So yeah, I love it. 

(Tamarla at work asking patient, Did you have your medication?)

Tamarla: I was just scrolling through Facebook and found an ad for an Aboriginal nursing and midwifery cadetship. I had recently found out I got into nursing at the University of New England, so I applied for it. 

I got an interview and got the position. I’ve been working at Armidale Hospital for about three years. 

Some of the challenges of being an Aboriginal cadet and studying at university was that it was hard to balance everything. But there was support at the hospital, at the university, and at home to help me through it. 

Some challenges and difficulties when working at the hospital is that I do see very sick people—very ill people, vulnerable people. 

(Tamarla at work, she’s informed: “There’s a new Aboriginal cadet starting at Tamworth.”]

Tamarla: As an Aboriginal cadet, I have a lot of support from my cadetship coordinator, clinical educator—everyone’s very approachable, and I can ask them any questions. 

As an Aboriginal nurse looking after Aboriginal patients, I have that connection. I can make that connection as soon as I walk into the room. 

One of the main things that’s really supported me through my degree is the financial support that I get from my Aboriginal cadetship while I’m at university. So, I get a fortnightly allowance plus 12 weeks of paid work on top of that every year. So yeah, it’s really good.

After I graduate this year, I’ll still be supported throughout my nursing journey. 

So next year, I’ll do a new grad program where I’ll transition into practice and work as a registered nurse in a hospital. 

What I’m passionate about and what motivates me every day is making a difference, making an impact on people’s lives. 

In the future, I want to work in remote communities with Aboriginal people - to contribute to closing the gap and improve overall health for my people,

End note: Tamarla is now a registered nurse in a GradStart position at Tamworth Base Hospital. She hopes to become a Remote Area Nurse to continue to support Aboriginal communities.

Thank you to Hunter New England Local Health District for letting us share this video. 

Tamarla is now working as a Chronic Disease Registered Nurse with the award-winning Integrated Chronic Care for Aboriginal People (ICCAPP) in Tamworth. Also see NSW Health - Stepping Up to support the employment of Aboriginal people in NSW Health roles. 

Marty - Project Officer 


Working for the Department of Regional NSW: Marty Jeffrey

Meet Marty Jeffrey - Assistant Project Officer with the Department of Regional NSW's Regional Delivery team

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Working for the Department of Regional NSW: Marty Jeffrey

"I was born in Regional New South Wales, and I haven’t left. I’ve got the opportunities where I am, and I don’t see it as needing to move away. I’m Marty Jeffrey, a proud Wiradjuri boy from Dubbo. I’m an assistant project officer within the Aboriginal outcomes team in the Department of Regional New South Wales.

Having a department that’s 100% dedicated to the region is something that I’m very passionate about. As a proud Aboriginal man, seeing our communities flourish—we know that there are strengths there, and I think it’s about pulling those strengths and really highlighting them, empowering them. It’s all about making an impact.

Sports is a massive part of my life and always has been. A local cricket club in Dubbo is a major opportunity for me to connect with lots of different people throughout the community. I’m so proud to be able to design our kit for this upcoming season and influence and change ideas and concepts for people throughout our club and my culture.

I think that it's really important for all Aboriginal people across our department and also across the community—to have those role models they can look up to. I see Danny as someone who I look up to as a leader. Not only does he lead by his actions, but he also assists and supports where and if needed.

In Dubbo, the Macquarie River is a really special place for me, my family, and people throughout the Dubbo region. It’s the giver of life and somewhere we feel really connected. There’s nothing better than getting home from work, grabbing the dogs, and taking them for a walk. You just want to reconnect and really feel the great things to do within Regional New South Wales.".

Since the video was made Marty has been promoted to the Project Officer role at Department of Regional NSW. Learn more about Inclusive employment at Department of Regional NSW

Learn more about working in NSW Government

Links and resources

Most departments have an Aboriginal Outcomes Unit, or Aboriginal Careers page. Browse around for opportunities in your chosen area.

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