Laura Christie recently completed a 12-week internship with HR in the Brisbane office of MWH. As we celebrate NAIDOC Week across Australia, we thought we’d ask Laura what it means to her and whether her experience with MWH has helped to shape the future direction of her career.
MWH: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Laura: I grew up in Toowomba and moved to Brisbane after high school where I studied at TAFE. I didn’t grow up within the indigenous culture because I only learnt of my heritage when I was 19. I most recently worked at the Queensland Police Call Centre, Police Link.
However while working there my daughter became quite ill and I had to take some extended leave to look after her. During this time while I was able to reflect and make the the choice to return to university to get my degree to progress further in a career and hope to make a difference somewhere. I am now a mature age student studying a double degree in Business and Psychology.
MWH: You recently completed your internship with MWH, what made you choose us?
Laura: I had two internship offers at the time from Career Trackers. MWH stood out as they offered the opportunity to work with management level staff. The MWH core values also aligned very well with my own views on life.
MWH: What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?
Laura:It’s a time to celebrate, learn and teach. At a personal level NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for people like myself who did not grow up with our culture, to learn from those who have been fortunate enough to have had that connection with indigenous culture their entire life. It also serves as an important reminder to children to explore their connection to others and their country. I am involved with the Turrwan Circle at my children’s school, a reading initiative which aims to help children improve their literacy skills. As part of NAIDOC Week, the children are encouraged to research their backgrounds, their connections to their country and understand the importance of their culture.
MWH: NAIDOC Week is a celebration of the history, culture and achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. But still this is a group that is underrepresented in the workforce. What can companies like MWH do to help shape the careers of talented Indigenous people?
Laura: MWH and some of the other companies at the Career Trackers Gala Dinner have already taken huge steps by signing up with Career Trackers, the indigenous internship placement company. It is important that Career Trackers continues and even expands to provide opportunities for other Indigenous students. By signing up to Career Trackers MWH is already supporting Indigenous graduates and interns. The bottom line support within MWH is also important MWH has a very multi-cultural and diverse workforce so already has the necessary support mechanisms which some other companies don’t.
MWH: What were your thoughts on the internship itself? Did you feel like it was a learning experience?
Laura: The internship was an amazing experience and I learnt so much; . the most important being around intangible things like how to develop relationships within meetings. It was great to be exposed to different levels of the business. One meeting might be less formal with the entire HR team and then the next might be with Mark Bruzzone, the Managing Director. So I was learning intangible skills such as the difference in tone between those meetings along with how important it is to develop good relationships. When you are putting forward an initiative or seeking support, having good relationships makes it so much easier. The support I received from Paul Broad and the rest of the MWH team was simply amazing. They welcomed me with open arms and supported me through everything. They also gave me a project to focus on and a lot of autonomy.
MWH: I understand that project was an interesting one, could you tell us a bit more about it?
Laura: The project I worked on was to assist in implementing a global internship programme. It was great as it gave me autonomy in my role and a better perspective on the impact such a programme could have on not only Indigenous students or graduates but anyone coming on board
MWH: Finally, did your experience with MWH help to shape what you want to do when you graduate?
Laura: It definitely helped to reinforce my passion for working within the HR industry and also, perhaps more importantly, to advocate for and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the workplace.
ED Note: NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, a group which commenced in the 1920s with the aim to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. Each year NAIDOC Week celebrates the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. This year NAIDOC Week occurs between 3-10 July with ‘Songlines: The living narrative of our nation’ as its theme. For more information see: http://www.naidoc.org.au/