Army mentors help empower Indigenous students

It was back to school for the soldiers and officers of Lavarack Barracks as they supported students at Thuringowa State High School in Townsville.

CAPTION: A student from Thuringowa State High School speaks to personnel from 3rd Brigade during a mentoring program. Story by Captain Diana Jennings. Photo by Corporal Brodie Cross.

As part of a mentoring program facilitated by Deputy Principal Wendy Bode, Thuringowa Indigenous Liaison Aunty Natalie Howard and 3rd Brigade Uncle WO2 David Boye, soldiers have been conducting regular yarning circles with students.

One yarning group includes a group of young women from the school’s Science Technology Engineering & Maths (STEM) program. The students met female soldiers and officers on International Women’s Day in March and have continued their mentoring sessions, forging close relationships to foster open and honest conversation.

Student Codie-Lee Katchup said she valued speaking with the Army nursing officers and medics as she hopes to enter the health industry after graduating.

“It was really good to hear their different stories,” Codie-Lee said.

“I just want to help people and I want to show my family that nothing is impossible.”

Participating in the program, 3rd Brigade senior health officer Lieutenant Colonel Kylie Hasse was keen to be involved and share her experiences to help young women through some of the intimidating life choices they may be facing.

“When I was at school I felt the options told to me were limited, when in fact they are limitless,” Lt-Col Hasse said.

“If I can share a little about my journey, then hopefully it can give others ideas on how to achieve their goals.”

Ms Bode said it was valuable for the students to hear about the soldiers’ different experiences as they left school and entered the workforce and Defence force.

‘You can’t be what you can’t see and the Army visits enable our students to see that everyday people can have a fantastic career,” Ms Bode said.

The sessions at the school, representing Townsville’s highest Indigenous student populace, focus on the students’ future aspirations, current challenges and their perspective on culture and reconciliation.

Ms Bode said the students came out of their shells to discuss “taboo” topics with the mentors.

“At the very beginning of the session, the female students were quite shy, but they became comfortable and posed challenging questions to the group around culture and community,” she said.

“This is a testament to the safe and trusting environment that was established between the female students and the Army women, which was only possible because everyone showed compassion and shared stories of their past.”

Lt-Col Hasse said the students’ perspectives on reconciliation and cultural norms was thought-provoking.

“I am learning so much about their lives and the questions posed to the group from the ladies have been thought-provoking and are challenging what I thought I knew,” Lt-Col Hasse said.

“To be a part of this program is humbling and I am thankful for the opportunity, which also helps me to grow as a leader.

“These young ladies will be mentors and leaders to our children, and seeing their enthusiasm, inner passion and immense potential is reassuring.”





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