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“I’ve earned the big salaries in the public sector, but the NFP sector wins hands down” – Charmaine Clark shares why

People find amazing jobs on EthicalJobs.com.au every day. This is part of a series of blog posts that go behind the scenes to meet some of the people and organisations finding each other through EthicalJobs.com.au.

Today’s story is from Charmaine Clark, who found her job working on the Regional Aboriginal Family Violence Research project at Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative on EthicalJobs.com.au.

Based in Warrnambool, Victoria, Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative is an Aboriginal community controlled healthcare organisation. It employs staff in areas including aged carechildren’s serviceshealthcare and family services.


Starting out with work

My first ever paid job was working as a trainee dental nurse at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Fitzroy, Melbourne. I had moved to the big smoke from Ballarat as a 16 year old having left school early wanting to enter the workforce.

I was there for a year, working in the clinic assisting the dentist and travelling around regional Victoria with the dental van. I loved making people feel better and I threw myself into learning as much as I could.

I went back to school as a mature age student and did a Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health) at Charles Sturt University. Years before that, I did a Diploma of Management at University of Ballarat (aka Federation Uni) and I’m currently enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma in Indigenous Research at Deakin University. My goal is to eventually become a social researcher and policy maker. Much of my studies have been about consolidating existing skills and acquiring new ones.

My resume is pretty extensive and diverse to say the least. In brief, I’ve worked in health, justice, education, environment, social policy, advocacy, politics, archaeology, journalism, AOD counselling and mental health.

The one main consistency across these is that I’ve worked primarily for the betterment of Aboriginal people – all across Australia, including remote communities in Western Australia and Northern Territory. I’ve also worked in the public sector in non-government organisations and spent 22 years as a public servant in both federal and state government departments.

It has been in the past eight years that I found my passion for mental health. Coming home to work at Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative – to my people and my country – with my experience and skills to put to good use is what motivates me now.


Working at Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative

Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative provides a range of services to the community including health services, counselling, family violence services, child services, housing and elder services to name a few. It’s one of many Aboriginal community controlled organisations.

I had been away working interstate for nearly 10 years and wanted to come home to my community. For me, it was about working directly with my community and that led me to the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative.

The job I applied for was the South West Aboriginal Health Partnership Coordinator. It was a regional position based out of the Gunditjmara Cooperative and worked with Aboriginal organisations across south-west Victoria.

Its focus was to support the health partnership organisations in meeting their mandatory reporting requirements around closing the gap health data sets, facilitate training for staff and support the partnership in responding to and developing regional policy positions on Aboriginal health.

After a year I moved on due to the position becoming redundant. I am now working on the first Regional Aboriginal Family Violence Research project for the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative.


Why work for a better world?

I’ve had many years working in the public sector, and yes – I’ve earned the big salaries. But for me, the non-for-profit sector wins hands down.

Why? It encourages innovation and collaboration. You can follow your personal passions and have greater control over your professional development. There’s greater flexibility with work/life balance, and you get to work with inspirational people and develop meaningful partnerships. It has a direct impact on the community and is responsive and ethical. And you get to change the world.

I didn’t get to where I am without working for it. Although I’ve followed my passions, I wanted to learn from as many people as possible.

There are jobs out there for every passion – and if they aren’t, then invent them.  It’s not about jobs and titles anyway. It about problems and finding solutions.

I’ve got a lot of skills that don’t always fit perfectly with the job that is advertised, but that should not exclude you from applying. You would be surprised how many skills are transferrable, or can create other job offers.

Let people know you exist. Wishing for a job does not get you one. Put yourself on [email] notifications from job websites like Ethicaljobs.com.au, or check them regularly.

And do voluntary work. I volunteered for three months on a dig, before I was offered a traineeship into archaeology. I was also a volunteer ambulance officer in Narrogin, WA, which gave me extra skills and expanded my social and professional networks.

Lastly, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to be, but it’s fun finding out who you can become.


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