New roads to leadership for Indigenous students

Grayson McCarthy-Grogan
Grayson McCarthy-Grogan
Indigenous students from UTS are better prepared than ever to take on the professional world — thanks to the internships that have been made available via CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program, through its Leadership Development Institute (LDI) event. Earlier this year, the LDI held a three–day conference in the largest known professional gathering of Indigenous university students in Australia’s history. Offering workshops, keynote speeches and networking opportunities with CEOs and community leaders, the conference was the first opportunity for many of the over 800 students and alumni to compare notes and take stock of their professional development.

“I’ve learned so much interning at the Commonwealth Bank,” says Jemma Ibbotson–Hansen, a communications law student at UTS. “My soft skills have improved, whether it be for presenting, time management or conducting myself in a professional manner.

The workshops at the conference provided students with an opportunity for additional growth.

“The LDI definitely helped me with my confidence,” says Molly Wallace, an environmental science student at UTS. “The best part was a workshop held by NIDA [National Institute of Dramatic Art] where they went through some confidence–boosting things to do before an interview.”

Importantly, students were given access to community leaders and company CEOs who could provide inspiration and insight into professional life.

“It definitely helps, bringing in people from all over Australia with the same interests and background as you. You make friends for life.”
– Grayson McCarthy–Grogan

For UTS communications student Grayson McCarthy–Grogan, the greatest inspiration came from AFL legend Michael O’Loughlin.

“He’s helping his family and other Indigenous people through his AFL career,” says McCarthy–Grogan. “It makes me want to do more.”

For students who are nearing graduation, the LDI offers a significant head start for entering the workforce.

“A lot of the companies I was interning with have an assessment centre that we need to complete to get into their graduate program,” explains Ibbotson–Hansen. “I wasn’t even aware an assessment had to be completed. So now I feel extremely prepared going into them.”

This year, more than 100 students participated in workshops with a mind to seeking that level of preparation — but there’s more to entering the workforce than completing assessments.

“It definitely helps, bringing in people from all over Australia with the same interests and background as you. You make friends for life,” says McCarthy–Grogan.

Wallace agrees, adding: “CareerTrackers has helped me so much with getting into contact with people in the area that I study.”

“Networking is really important. I have friends who work in Qantas, another at Westpac, and another at the Commonwealth Bank. I’ve now been exposed to a corporate environment that I didn’t even know was possible,” says Ibbotson– Hansen, who sees the impact of the LDI reaching far beyond her career.

For her, CareerTrackers “has had a ripple effect on my family. My little sister now understands there’s a bigger world out there with endless opportunities if you apply yourself and work hard at your studies.”

“UTS is proud to be involved with CareerTrackers LDI, particularly to see its Indigenous students find innovative pathways for their future careers,” says Pro Vice–Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement), Professor Michael McDaniel. “This conference shows that role models can be found everywhere, and that leadership can start with the smallest actions like strategic thinking and small acts of kindness.”

In 2017–18, there were 50 UTS CareerTrackers interns and 23 alumni. CareerTrackers has held a 10x10 partnership with UTS since 2016, a 10–year agreement signed by 10 universities with a commitment to formalise pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into experiential learning opportunities, and to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students.

This year, UTS’s contributions to the CareerTrackers program were recognised with two awards — the Partnering for Success Award to UTS’s Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research; and the Intern of the Year Award to UTS student Clark Donovan.

This year, the UTS Annual Appeal is focused on helping Indigenous students succeed in their studies at UTS. Whether it’s helping with access to textbooks and computers, travel expenses, housing or the cost of tuition, UTS is committed across the entire campus towards advancing the cause for Indigenous education. To find out how you can help, visit