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Opening doors for Aboriginal staff

When Jacinta Coppin applied for the role of Administration Support Officer with MacKillop, she had no idea know she'd end up with an entirely different job. To her surprise, she's now working as a Family Support Worker three months later and loving it.

Jacinta is a Kariyarra/Nyamal woman from Kariyrra country which is in the north-west of Western Australia, near Port Hedland. MacKillop has been established in the area for several years and in 2018 started running an Intensive Family Support service in the region.

Natasha Bargeus, Pilbara and NT Manager at MacKillop interviewed Jacinta, and immediately recognised she had transferrable skills and relevant experience for the Family Support Worker role which was open at the time. After the interview, Natasha called Jacinta and encouraged her to apply for the position.

Jacinta said the call came as a surprise, but a welcome one. "I first applied for the Admin Officer role, not thinking of anything else. When Natasha called me and told me about the Family Support Worker position, I was very interested in it."

In her role, Jacinta supports families to live together safely and reduce the risk of children and young people entering or re-entering care. Many of the families supported by the service are Aboriginal; having staff from the local Kariyarra community ensures the service is culturally appropriate and safe.

MacKillop is working to improve employment outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by increasing recruitment, retention and professional development. This initiative is an action in MacKillop's Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – a document that guides our commitment to Aboriginal self-determination.

MacKillop has established committees to deliver key actions in the RAP. The RAP HR Working Group has developed a Recruitment, Retention and Professional Development Strategy for MacKillop’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees. Donna Meechan, HR Manager for Business Change Enablement, leads the Working Group and says it has brought people together from different regions and departments across MacKillop.

It is vital that we create culturally safe workplaces that contribute to a positive working experience to support the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. The RAP HR Working Group has been an excellent opportunity to integrate Aboriginal employees’ voices into everyday activities such as recruitment, interviewing, onboarding as well as influencing the broader workforce strategy for our Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees.

– Donna Meechan

Jacinta says she was thrilled to be offered the position of Family Support Worker. "I was really excited about it and since starting in February, I love it here," Jacinta says.

Jacinta was initially nervous when she commenced, but soon found her feet. She was supported to transition into the role by shadowing her colleagues, and said it wasn’t long before she developed her confidence.

Jacinta wants to share a message to other Aboriginal people looking for roles at MacKillop. “Don’t be shy in applying for jobs – just go for it!” she says.

MacKillop’s second RAP is currently in development and will be released this year. Hundreds of staff, volunteers, carers and partner organisations across Australia have been engaged in forums on reconciliation to inform the new RAP.