Bridging the gap between the department and Indigenous communities

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are warned that this article and accompanying video contain references to Ralph’s grandmother who passed away some years ago.

Ralph and his family have granted the department permission to use her photographs and references in telling Ralph’s story.

Ralph White is passionate about his community and his work, and was born and raised in Darwin, with a family background originating from the Kimberley and Daly River.

He was raised by his grandmother, who was part of the stolen generation and played a big role in making him who he is today – a strong role model for Indigenous youth.

Ralph White Profile – Transcript (14KB, DOCX)
Ralph White Profile – Transcript (204KB, PDF)

Working as one of many Indigenous Service Officers (ISOs) for the Department of Human Services Ralph strives to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and communities connect with the department, providing information about payments and services.

“What makes my role so important is being the bridge between the Indigenous community and the department and stakeholders,” Ralph explained.

“My area of expertise is understanding the issues facing Indigenous Australians, and promoting and helping them understand all the services available to them.

“We also educate people on the new payments and policies as they are introduced in the department.”

“I enjoy helping our Indigenous customers to better themselves with education, and getting a job, and helping their communities, to make them more sustainable for the future, to have growth.”

Ralph also works with the Northern Territory Department of Education, ensuring they understand what is needed for students to qualify for the ABSTUDY payment.

“For a lot of our students in the communities, their schooling will only go up to Year 9 meaning they don’t have that option of continuing through to Year 12.”

“They’ll often need to attend boarding schools to get a higher education and then hopefully get into jobs.”

“I see myself as a role model for the younger Indigenous customers. They can see that if you work hard and go to school there are a lot of jobs out there, and if they want to go out there and get a job with the department like I did, that can happen.”

Ralph also works with Aboriginal Liaison Officers in schools within the Northern Territory to help them gain a better understanding of ABSTUDY and the digital services available within the department.

“One of the most rewarding elements of my work has been helping Indigenous males to sign up to myGov and showing them how they can do their own business with the department.”

According to Ralph, the take up of digital services has increased in the last couple of years.

“Customers are starting to come around to the idea, and consider it a much easier option than waiting in line, or waiting on the phone or for the remote servicing teams.

“People can see that if they’ve got their phone, they can do their work, link to myGov and do their business. They can lodge their forms, change their address and update any change of circumstances,” Ralph explained.

Ralph also works closely with the Remote Servicing teams that travel to the communities, making them aware of the importance of getting new customers on to myGov to become more self-sufficient and do a lot of their own work.

Family has always been important to Ralph, and he sees it as being important in the communities, which is why he considers helping achieve sustainable growth a high priority.

“My upbringing has definitely influenced the work I do.

“My grandmother raised me from a very young age, and her core values were to work hard and treat everyone with respect.  I think because she was like that as well, she pushed that onto us, to go out and work and respect everybody.”

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