Graduating from adversity to career success

Woman sitting at the desk

When Heidi Noon dropped out of school at just 13 years old, hers could have easily become a story of adversity and disadvantage, all too familiar for many Indigenous Australians.

Instead, hard work and a passion for community services led to opportunities that allowed her to forge a fulfilling career as a fraud investigator.

The Department of Human Service’s Indigenous Apprenticeships Program and the National Graduate Program have helped her achieve goals she never thought possible as a teenager thrown into an adult life.

For Heidi, a descendant of the Waka Waka and Gubbi Gubbi peoples in Brisbane, leaving school wasn’t a choice.

“I grew up in difficult circumstances but my dad was always a hard worker and even though we were poor, he was a great provider,” Heidi said.

“However, he got really sick and simply couldn’t do it anymore. So I had to go out and get a job.

“Being so young, I even had to lie about my age to get my very first job!

“Slightly ironic given I now work in the department’s fraud investigation team writing intelligence reports!

“At the time, I never imagined I could do anything like that.”

After various gigs in retail and hospitality, Heidi played real gigs as a professional musician for many years before deciding to go back and complete her studies.

Following her passion for social work, Heidi completed a TAFE course in community services before enrolling in University, where she first saw an ad for the department’s Indigenous Apprenticeships Program.

The 12 month program is developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to start their career in the Australian Public Service.

“It was exactly the opportunity I was looking for,” Heidi said.

“The opportunities I’ve had since taking that first step as an Indigenous apprentice have been amazing!”

While working for the department, Heidi completed a Bachelor degree in Human Services as a mature-age student and then applied for the department’s National Gradate Program.

“It was a natural step in some ways to stay with the department but the number of opportunities the grad program offered, for example, the Indigenous and Multicultural Placement, also really appealed me,” Heidi said.

“I was able to move around the department and I spent time with the Child Support policy advice team and also worked on Indigenous employment strategies.

“It was a great way to experience the diverse range of work we do and it helped me build a valuable network of contacts.

“I completed the grad program last year and am now working as an analyst. I loved it!

“I think the best part of my current job is writing reports. I really like writing. I use intelligence I’ve sourced myself to write concise, informative reports. It’s a great achievement and a very cool part of my job. 

“It just goes to show that no matter where you’re starting from, there are pathways available to build a successful career.”

The Department of Human Services is now taking applications for the 2020 intake of both the Indigenous Apprenticeships Program and the National Graduate Program.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to take control of your future and make a real difference to people’s lives. I encourage anyone, regardless of age or experience to apply,” Heidi said.

More information:

Recent university graduates can apply for the National Graduate Program up until 15 April 2019. For more information visit the National Graduate Program.

Applications for the Indigenous Apprenticeships Program close on 7 May 2019 and there are no minimum qualifications required. For information about how to apply, visit the Indigenous Apprenticeships Program on our website.