For Cristilee Louttit, being an Indigenous Education Ambassador is all about sharing and learning and making the most of the opportunity to be a role model for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It’s particularly important to Cristilee, given her early educational experiences.
“When I went to school, there were no ambassadors or role models to talk with young people. We (ambassadors) come from such a wide variety of backgrounds and can show that opportunities are limitless, but 12 years ago I was the only person at school to stand up and say I’m Indigenous,” she recalls.
Cristilee is a descendant of the Pitta Pitta and Murawali/Kurawali people of central Queensland and lives in Brisbane. She is a Human Resources Manager and successfully completed school and TAFE studies, despite a difficult home environment. She is currently the Corporate Recruitment Leader with Virgin Blue.
“I moved out of home at 16, and in Year 12 my mum and dad separated. When I was at school I wasn’t encouraged. In fact, the school principal said I would not get anywhere in life. I wanted to show that I would get somewhere and applied to TAFE for the social-welfare course,” she says.
“I also started networking and meeting other Indigenous people after school and discovered there were a lot of deadly blackfellas out there.”
Cristilee’s career path is diverse. After studying at TAFE she worked on arts projects and was instrumental in developing the Indigenous Youth Leadership and Indigenous Youth Parliament in Queensland.
Her role as an ambassador takes her into schools, TAFEs and youth events to talk with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She is a natural communicator and freely shares her own experiences, delivering a central message that challenges can be overcome and staying at school will open doors.
“It’s a different generation out there now. Five or 10 years ago there was only a handful of us going to university,” she says.
“We need to seek out opportunities. There are a lot of times when young women don’t consider the opportunities available to them, and when I’m out in the schools, I can give them the support they need to consider those opportunities.”
Cristilee believes that persevering when the going gets tough is critical to success.
“You may have the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you need to keep chipping away and the opportunities will come. There is a lot of uncertainty about future careers between the ages of 14 and 17 and many have no idea what they will do when they leave school.
“It is important to set goals, chat with your careers advisor at school, and do some research with your family at home. Get online and see what’s available to you.”
Although this is Cristilee’s first year as an education ambassador, she is impressed with the achievements of other Indigenous Education Ambassadors.
“It’s phenomenal – there are 40 other people doing amazing things, right across Australia and we have the opportunity to promote their stories to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our young people don’t hear enough of the amazing stories of everyday blackfellas,” she says.
More information on the Indigenous Education Ambassador Program can be found at www.deewr.gov.au/ambassadors.
And, teachers, if you would like an Indigenous Education Ambassador to visit your school, fill out a ‘Request an Ambassador’ application form on the above website.