Kayla-Lee’s hunger to help shines through

25 August 2020

As a hungry teen, Kayla-Lee Curry visited the Red Cross for hot meals. Now she’s striving to make youth work her profession.

While completing her UQ Behavioural Science degree, Kayla-Lee has been volunteering and making the most of three summer internship placements with Queensland Fire & Emergency Service.

Kayla-Lee pictured presenting during a leadership conference in Melbourne.

Arranged via CareerTrackers, the placements have been based within the QFES ‘Support Network’ team.

“While at QFES, I worked to ensure peer support officers would be aware of areas in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples which could induce a negative impact, particularly on their working life,” Kayla-Lee says.

“The conversations about resilience strategies and raising awareness about social and emotional wellbeing were really eye-opening and it exposed more people to Indigenous culture.”

Kayla-Lee said she hoped her ‘culture care’ initiatives would be implemented alongside complementary personnel supports, to help Indigenous people feel comfortable in the QFES.

“With my internship knowledge, I will be in a good position to recommend QFES careers to young Indigenous people.

“I also worked on an Aboriginal art piece to tell the QFES story, which is scheduled for release later this year.

“I appreciate the support I have had from Dr Bernie Scully from QFES Support Network, from CareerTrackers adviser Emma Guest, and from the ATSIS Unit at UQ, who heard my tears.”

Through CareerTrackers, Kayla-Lee presented a dinner speech on the ‘State of education and opportunity for Indigenous Australia’, during a Learning Development Institute conference held in Melbourne, earlier this year.

With her undergraduate degree due for completion this year, there are hopes of employment in the field of youth work on the Sunshine Coast in 2021. Longer-term, there are plans for postgraduate programs in both Social Work and Community Development, with a view of influencing policies and procedures for youth residential care.

Although her family declined to identify their Indigenous background until recently, Kayla-Lee is proud of her ties to the Tharawal people (from a region now known as south of Sydney) through one of her great, great grandmothers.

She has engaged regularly with UQ’s ATSIS Unit and has been discussing implementation of the UQ Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) through the School of Psychology and related community engagement.

Other volunteering roles have included admin support for a Tiny Houses for Homeless Youth proposal and an art exhibition plan.

“I’ve been lucky as I have always had goals and have always been driven. Mum always worked and set the standard. Now I’m keen to support other young people in learning how to live,” Kayla-Lee says.

“I am passionate about supporting the next generation and using my culture and personal support systems as a strength in my future endeavours.”

The CareerTrackers vision is to bridge the gap for Indigenous Australians and support the emerging generation to have economic empowerment and equal representation at all levels of industry and community. CareerTrackers interns are working with companies of all sizes across a range of fields including Westpac, Lendlease, Qantas, Telstra, Herbert Smith Freehills, Nous Group, Social Ventures Australia and Sydney Theatre Company.