Indigenous staff role modelling strength and knowledge

Not only is Department of Human Services Program Manager James Baban a gifted artist, didgeridoo teacher and accredited counselor, he’s also been an influential role model to his Indigenous colleagues.

James’ passion for mentoring stems from his past – being born and raised in Darwin as part of the Stolen Generations.

“Growing up, as a young fella, I remember at times things were hard to deal with,” James said.

“I’ve seen a lot.

“I never had a formal mentor, but now and then someone would give me a pat on the shoulder and share a few wise words. Sometimes it wasn’t until years later that I’d realise the truth in what they were saying.

“If I’d met someone back then who was always there to give me advice, that would’ve been wonderful. And that’s why I put my hand up to be a mentor – to be that person helping others think outside the square.”

As one of the department’s 251 nationally trained Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mentors, James has helped many new colleagues transition into the public service.

“For some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially those from remote communities, working in a big office like ours can be a real culture shock,” James said.

“Mentors are like a cultural bridge, a friendly face. If people know they’re not alone in the organisation, it can help them find their feet and feel comfortable and committed to working for the department.

“And if we have better Indigenous representation in the department, we have better cultural capability. Which is what we need to show Indigenous people we’re fair dinkum.”

One of James’ mentees is Seaton Rogers, who is training to be a Mainframe Application Developer for the Australian Immunisation Register in the department’s CIO Group.

“Having James as a mentor and friend has been amazing because he’s such a positive and giving person,” Seaton said.

“I honestly can’t remember seeing James without a smile on his face.

“On top of his workplace advice, I’ve learned so many things from James and his outlook on life – like resilience and emotional intelligence. Having a mentor has had an incredibly positive impact on my life overall.”

The Indigenous Mentoring Program is just one of a number of programs, networks and resources available for Indigenous staff.

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