Proud Dunghutti/Gamilaroi woman Shanae Brown (pictured on the right) always had a health career in the back of her mind. She’d spent heaps of time helping to care for her sister's 11 children. She was good at caring; it it felt natural to her.
But, Shanae says, she wasn’t exactly thriving at school. Her high school teacher knew that, and thought the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) program at TAFE NSW would be good for Shanae.
Meanwhile, at TAFE NSW, teacher Natalie Coulter (that's her in the picture on the left) was doing her thing. Natalie had worked in retail, visual merchandising, theatre and styling both in Sydney and New York, and was back in Sydney as a part -time teacher.
The connection Shanae and Natalie forged helped them both grow. Shanae did a couple of courses and built up her confidence. The whole ‘adult-learning’ environment really worked for her. Now she's employed as an Assistant in Nursing and is fulfilling a growing need for more Indigenous health workers. Strengthening the Aboriginal health workforce is one of the core priorities for the St Vincent Health Network’s Aboriginal Health Plan, and Shanae – who is the first person in her family to complete a TAFE NSW qualification – is helping make that happen. She’s now looking at adding a Pathology qualification to her skill set, and looking at studying to be an enrolled nurse.
The relationship between Shanae and Natalie is a great ‘BE-hind the brand’ story. It’s not unique – these stories are playing out every day around NSW – but we love it and want to share it. Anyway, here are their words.
Shanae: It was fun and really different. Nat was easy-going and positive. She inspired me to keep coming to the course. Instead of calling her ‘Miss’ like we did with the teachers at school, she asked us to call her ‘Nat’. I liked that. It made me feel more relaxed.
Natalie: Shanae had a curiosity for learning and wanted to be present, although she was shy and somewhat withdrawn when we first started classes together. After a while she jumped at any opportunity that came her way and initiated opportunities for herself.
Shanae: Nat had her own way of teaching. She didn't rush me or the other girls in the class. She let us learn the way we wanted to.
She took her time with us to explain things. We connected because Nat let us explore and showed us how to learn and made learning fun.
She took us on excursions and helped me get a job. Sometimes the class group wanted to sing songs and dance. Nat let that happen. It felt like Nat really liked teaching us.
Natalie: Shanae took up my offer to see the TAFE NSW Counsellor in a one-on-one meeting. She asked me to go with her and together we sat and mapped out her exit plan from school into TAFE NSW. Shanae allowed herself to be supported through and I wanted to support her through her pathway. It was the perfect situation really, a naked farmer meeting a starving tailor. I also understood her family responsibilities. If you scratch beneath the surface none of us are all that different.
Shanae: Nat never gave up on helping me.
Natalie: There are many cool things about Shanae but the coolest is that she didn't give up, she kept at it. She could have given up as there were some hard times along the way. Her constant effort to stay connected, keep communicating and get on with it was inspiring. Being the first person in her family to attend TAFE made it all the more difficult because although her family are proud of her there was no vocational/academic expectation, and as a result the home environment was not particularly conducive to study. For this young woman to stick at is and complete two TAFE NSW qualifications in the one year is beyond cool. On the last day of last year, Shanae called me and told me she passed her Ps as well! Now, that's inspiring!
There’re different ways in life to learn.
Each course I went through I became more outgoing and less shy. The Visual Merchandising YES Program changed my life. Without this program, I would not have known how to leave school and start learning at TAFE NSW.
When I received my first qualification, I felt excited for my future. I felt a sense of accomplishment and was confident to move onto another qualification.
The Certificate II in Retail meant I was able to enrol in the Certificate III Health Services Assisting.
I would never have believed I could get two qualifications in the one year. I have always wanted to work in nursing and the Health Services Assisting course has enabled me to be employed in my dream job at St Vincent's Hospital.
All this and I'm still only 17. I now want to come back to TAFE next year and start the Diploma of Nursing. I learnt how to be proud of my accomplishment and who I am today.
I've learnt too much to list. For a start, I've learnt that every student can make it through TAFE NSW if they are seen, heard and given time. About myself, I've learnt I have a great capacity to guide a student and a love of doing it. On Shanae, I've learnt she is super smart. She is resilient and has a huge capacity to care. Lastly, we have all learnt from Shanae about leadership in a community.
In relation to Shanae the rewards of being her TAFE teacher have been life changing, life affirming and one of the greatest highlights of my career. I hope we will be lifetime friends.
Being a TAFE NSW teacher brings numerous rewards and they come when you least expect them. Rewards come from other teachers, from being trusted and from the daily grind. The students who might challenge you the most and need TAFE NSW the most also bring great rewards.
I felt supported the whole way through all my studies. I was treated with respect. This made me feel more grownup and responsible.
Nat was so proud of me from the beginning and I knew how badly she wanted me to finish each course. I thought about Nat and how I wanted to do it for her and that also made me want to do it for myself more.
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