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Westpac provides woman in business professional development

19 December 2014

Roebourne Jolleen Hicks

Two weeks after her 30th birthday Jolleen Hicks (below) was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She underwent surgery and has been in recovery now for more than a year. The young native title lawyer from Roebourne (above) in northern Western Australia also holds director roles on various community not-for-profit organisations and runs her own consulting firm, bringing together governments, corporations and Indigenous communities for the benefit of all.

Jolleen Hicks Preferred

The Mary Reibey Scholarship which Westpac Women’s Markets awards each year, and of which Jolleen was one of three winners this year, has been one of two major tests of her powers of recuperation since her operation.

“I have a few issues around balance and coordination still – but finishing the six-day [AGSM General Manager] course made me realise, having gone through this journey, I’m more than I was before,” says Jolleen.

Jolleen, who identifies as being Ngarluma, Aboriginal, gets her identity through her mother - and her mother through her mother, Jolleen’s grandmother. Roebourne is home and her country.

A director at the Aboriginal medical service Mawarnkarra Health Service Ltd, which her mum first worked in in 1986 and of which she is now the CEO, Jolleen’s own consulting business, Gurrgura, is committed to ensuring that the Ngarluma people are recognised and respected as the traditional owners of their country. Her legal expertise is in native title and she has done much of that work in the Kimberleys and Queensland.

“In my consulting role I provide government and others with strategies around how best to engage with the Aboriginal community - particularly my own community and I deliver that knowledge by way of the workshops I’ve created,” she explains.

Called, ‘Understanding Your Aboriginal Community and Representatives’, the content comes from her experience working with many Aboriginal people across the country, and helps participants understand how best to connect with communities in terms of service delivery.

“I’ve been applying learnings from the [AGSM] course already, especially around story-telling and audience. The story that sells a particular message to my community has to be told differently to the one I tell to sell the same message to senior executives of Rio Tinto,” according to Jolleen.

Without doubt this young woman’s skill set and experience are specialised. Her quiet, more ‘introverted’ presence, which is something she admits to having, she also knows, now the course is behind her, has not always been used to maximum effect.

“I’m not about to become someone I’m not, but I can use the power of my own style to get my message across more effectively and authentically.”

What Jolleen found she also brought to the course participants was a greater understanding around what her life is like - challenging the stereotype held by the room around what it is to be an Aboriginal person.

“I offer a very different perspective not just as an Aboriginal person who is connected to their culture and community but as someone who has achieved in that ‘other’ world we live in, that dominant western world,” she says.

The two worlds are very different with completely separate value and belief systems underpinning the way they function.

The decision by Jolleen to spend time in this ‘other’ world has meant making sacrifices: “When it comes to my culture and community, I have had to miss out. A person who has spent all their time in the community, and is the same age as age as me, they would be way up in the hierarchy. My role is to try I try and straddle both sides and look after both.”

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