Student of Mandandanji heritage thrives in defence systems role

20 May 2021

University of Queensland graduate Anna Holland now works on high-frequency technology for a leading defence and security company … it’s a highly professional, security-conscious and trusted role.

But during her schooling, the student of Mandandanji heritage found she had to battle to convince teachers of her full potential.

Anna Holland pictured at BAE Systems Australia.

“In Year 9 I was discouraged from doing Maths B and in Year 11 told I would never get more than a B in Chemistry, while my Year 12 OP predictions were only 5-9,” she says.

“I ended up acing Maths B, got an A-minus in Chemistry and an OP 3, which enabled me to enrol in Engineering at UQ … by the end of school I realised I could do things if I put my mind to them and gained more self-confidence.”

Anna thrived at UQ (earning two Rio Tinto scholarship awards and an Indigenous Student Engineer award) and graduated with a dual Degree in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering with Honours in 2018.

She secured a role as a 'Hardware Engineer' with BAE Systems Australia, based in Adelaide, and recently completed her two-year graduate program.

“My BAE Systems program rotations included a maintenance contract for air traffic control and radio systems, and customer assurance for an advanced air defence simulator training system for the Army,” she says.

“I’m really enjoying my work with BAE Systems and hope in coming years to have opportunities to become a technical lead or team manager.”

Anna says it was not all plain sailing with her university studies, particularly since she chose to take on one of the hardest Physics courses in first semester of first year.

However, she had already made contact with UQ’s ATSIS Unit, through the InspireU camps, and was aware of the availability of iTAR tutoring support, which helped her through.

“It was through ATSIS Unit I also had some of the best experiences of my life as an InspireU camp mentor and iTAR tutor, and I was glad to support another Indigenous female Engineering student, among others.

“I was inspired by a quote from a senior Indigenous female academic which, to paraphrase, means that every opportunity I get I will open the door and leave it open for the next person to follow!”

As a teenager, Anna helped her mother to get up to speed with modern technology and was overjoyed when she graduated with a Master of Public Health degree at the end of 2020.

“My mum and I were both at Uni at the same time for a brief time which was really lovely,” Anna says.