When I received the email that the Aurora Project had successfully placed me with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), I was excited. I was very aware of the reputation VACCHO carries, and the esteem in which it’s held community. Coming from a trade background and having worked my way through a political sciences degree, the thought of taking the next major step in my career transition was daunting, yet I was eager to experience life in the Collingwood office, in a politically charged organisation that advocates strongly on behalf of the Victorian Aboriginal community. Suffice to say, I walked into a warm and welcome family environment – I felt at home the minute I strolled through the doors. The atmosphere is fantastic, very relaxed, laidback culture where t shirts and shorts is the norm, though it can be quite boisterous (particularly upstairs), though these characteristics in no way belie the high quality of work the organisation does for its members and the Victorian Aboriginal community. All staff members are incredibly approachable; from the friendly reception staff to the unit directors, to the CEO – who has landed the role of Victorian Treaty Commissioner!
I was introduced to my new team within the Policy and Advocacy Unit (PAU), shown around the office and settled into my new desk. I was tasked with researching and writing a literature review of the peer reviewed material regarding successful strategies that combat alcohol and other drug (AoD) misuse in Aboriginal communities, both nationally and internationally. Additionally, to this I was asked to compile a ‘ready reckoner’ identifying frameworks and policies that target AoD and social and emotionally wellbeing in both the Aboriginal context, and also mainstream, as well as organisations that work in those spaces. Accompanying this was to be another document that would outline the main points of each framework/policy. It was important work, and research into an area that I had done very little study into previously, as public health is not my area of study at university. I attended meetings, and was asked to be on a working group to put together an important business case. This was a great surprise, though very welcomed as a great opportunity to learn and experience the intimacies of planning such a significant piece of work.
As part of life at VACCHO, I completed an in-house cultural safety-training course with the other new and recent starters, attended a VACCHO Day, the PAU Christmas lunch, and the whole of organisation Christmas break up at the Darebin Parklands. Following the conclusion of my internship, I was offered a contract of employment as a research assistant with the Workforce and Wellbeing Unit (WWU), which I gladly seized.
I greatly enjoyed my time with VACCHO in the PAU. The policy team is incredibly supportive and the members are more than happy to take time out their day to help out in any way they can. The unit director and policy manager, despite busy schedules, are both keen to offer advice and feedback. If you’re in any way interested in public health in the Aboriginal context, VACCHO is the place for you. I’m incredibly thankful of the team at Aurora for connecting me with a great organisation doing an incredible work in a rapidly evolving space. The process is very streamlined and well organised. The turnaround times are quick, and the staff are prompt with answering any questions. If you’d like to work in the Aboriginal sector and are looking for a foot in the door, I’d highly recommend engaging with the Aurora Project.