“...I feel really grateful and it was wonderful to study with Indigenous people who I could share my experiences with at NMIT. The award is very exciting and I am very proud of myself. I also feel more confident and believe in myself in a way I never have.” - Nicole Waddell , 2007 Outstanding Student of the Year (Koorie) at the Victorian Training Award.
In the past, study was never a priority for Nicole Waddell.
She left school after completing Year 11 to work, but was unsure what career direction to head in -'I didn't really think about a career at all; as long as I had a job I was happy,' she explained.
Now, more than a decade later, Nicole, 29, of Heidelberg West, has changed her life - she has a strong career focus and enjoys studying with different priorities for the years ahead.
Indeed, her recent studious efforts have been rewarded as after studying at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE's (NMIT) Koorie Services Centre, Nicole has just won the Victorian Training Award as 2007 Outstanding Student of the Year - Koorie and was also 2007 NMIT Koorie Outstanding Student of the Year.
But Nicole never expected such accolades; there were several jobs that were just to earn money, until she started work in an administrative capacity at Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit at Melbourne University in 2000.
It was there that she was encouraged to study and as she had also become a mother to Shania, her direction in life started to change.
In 2003, she enrolled at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE's Koorie Services Centre and undertook Certificate III in Business Administration.
'I was taking it step by step and at first, I was nervous and a bit scared to return to study, but the support of the teachers at NMIT and the other students made it really enjoyable. '
After completing the certificate, Nicole wanted to keep on studying; she had found an environment where she felt comfortable among her own people at NMIT's Koorie Services Centre and thrived on the learning experience. A whole new world beckoned for the future.
'After finishing the Business Administration course, I wanted to do welfare as it was the area I was working in at Onemda and in 2005, I enrolled to study Certificate IV in Community Services,' Nicole said.
This year, with greater confidence and promotion at Onemda where she now works as a community development and communications officer, Nicole has enrolled for a bachelor of arts degree at Victoria University part-time, majoring in Indigenous studies and community development.
Born in Darwin, her mother from the Miriwung Jerrong Tribe in the Kimberley region of WA and her father of the Arabana Tribe in South Australia, Nicole said she always had a strong Indigenous identity but is still learning about the history of her people to pass on to her daughter, Shania, now 8, and her younger daughter, Chloe, 4.
While she was surprised to win the awards, she said it was 'a big honour and I feel really grateful and it was wonderful to study with Indigenous people who I could share my experiences with at NMIT.
'As students, we became very close and supportive of each other and we could communicate with the teachers who were very encouraging and understanding. The award is very exciting and I am very proud of myself. I also feel more confident and believe in myself in a way I never have.'
Nicole and other students also had a great opportunity to share their fun and fortunes with the Indigenous community in Victoria when they broadcast their own radio program, Black Branches , on Koori community radio station 3 KND.
The students were on air for nearly twelve months every Wednesday between 12-2pm where they talked about employment, education and training with music and fun.
Looking back on her teenage indifference to education and training, Nicole said she was now career focused and very ambitious for the future. She has brought her first home and wants to teach her children (she is expecting another child in January) about their heritage and carve out a career in Indigenous community development .
NMIT's Koorie Services Centre helped me on the path and brought out my life experiences where I could build on those and learn at the same time. I love learning now and while I'm juggling study, work and motherhood, it's a whole new world for me.'
21 August, 2007