“When I was six years old, I heard the elders dreaming of a Yolngu-led healthcare service in East Arnhem Land. They knew what Miwatj Health could be before its conception; and how central it could become to the lives of the Yolngu people.”
A career with meaning
Born and raised in the Gove Peninsula, Michael says he was fortunate to have had a traditional Yolngu upbringing in his homeland Djarrkpi. He also received western education via distance education. Michael always hoped that more Aboriginal children could experience a traditional education. He went on to develop software that would enable communities to capture and share their cultural knowledge through technology. It was a successful initiative, with the games, puzzles, dictionaries and story books still being used by students around Australia today.
Twelve years later, Michael was ready for a change. He heard about an exciting opportunity to work with the community in Nhulunbuy, and joined us as a Workforce Engagement Officer in 2016. Before long, he progressed to Senior Workforce Engagement Officer and moved up again as HR Manager and as Manager of Learning and Development in following year.
“Throughout my time at Miwatj, I’ve come to appreciate the role of HR and also the importance of succession planning for a Yolngu workforce.”
Indeed, we’re proud that over half of our employees are from the Yolngu communities that we serve. Michael shares why this is so important.
“Miwatj’s goal has always been to empower Yolngu peoples to run our own health service. In the future, we want to have more Yolngu nurses, doctors and administration workers. And we are slowly realising this dream.”
Michael says that preparing the next Yolngu leader to assume his own position one day is both exciting and rewarding.
“When the ideal candidate presents themselves, I’ll take them under my wing, encourage them to undertake a traineeship, and help them learn the skills to feel confident to become our next HR Manager.”
Michael’s two eldest children share his passion for strengthening the community, and have followed in their father’s footsteps.
“Since I started working here, my eldest two children have joined me at Miwatj Health as well. Luke is part of the outreach team in the Volatile Substance Abuse and Alcohol and Other Drugs space (VSA AOD) and Cheyenne works in Child and Maternal Health. My kids have had a strong sense of social justice from a young age. I’m incredibly proud.”
More than a dream… a calling
In his time at Miwatj, Michael is absorbing skills that he will one day bring back to his homeland. For him, it’s about resurrecting an ancient dream.
“I plan to return to Djarrkpi to develop infrastructure and provide jobs. People want to make a living, but they also need to live on country; it’s the keeping place for our traditional law and knowledge. It’s where our forefathers return.”