Regina Richardson doesn’t consider herself any different to other students at Durack Institute of Technology in Geraldton. But her recent community, cultural and training achievements have been officially acknowledged at both state and national levels by prestigious training awards.
At the beginning of 2014 Regina was selected as the winning recipient of Durack’s Aboriginal Student of the Year (sponsored by Rio Tinto), and awarded $1,000 prize at the Geraldton Graduation and Award ceremony in late March.
In her acceptance speech, Regina stated that winning the award meant great personal recognition of the skills she had developed from both negative and positive events in her life. She also attributed her success to positive role models and mentors in her life, making changes to learnt behaviour and by breaking cycles which although difficult, were possible for her to change with the right support.
From this positive start, Regina was then encouraged and supported by Durack’s staff to enter the WA Training Awards for the category of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year 2014, which she won in September at the gala event held in Perth.
The level of competition at these awards was intense, with Regina competing against six other finalists from across WA in her category. During the selection and interview process, Regina drew on her life and study experiences from the Certificates III and IV in Community Services Work, as well as the Certificate IV in Youth Work.
By winning this award, Regina scored herself a $5,000 study grant sponsored by The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation to financially support her in furthering her education for expenses such as travel, purchase of equipment, fees associated with starting a business and the like.
By winning at the WA Training Awards, Regina then went on to represent WA at the Australian Training Awards in November and compete against finalists from all Australian states and territories in her category.
The national awards recognise the achievement of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students who display a strong understanding and knowledge of the vocational education and training system and demonstrate the relevance of lifelong learning for themselves and their community.
Although she didn’t win her category, Regina describes the experience as a large step forward in developing her capacity to be an effective ambassador for the community services industry, her community and Australia.
“It’s amazing, the possibilities of where training can take you, to open pathways to further develop skills and experiences, and potential career opportunities,” Regina said. “I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to represent my family and culture, my region, my training institute, and most importantly, myself.”
Regina grew up in a local Geraldton suburb, in a single parent household and was the eldest of eight children from 230 descendants (approximately) on her Grandmother’s side. With her future goal to complete a university qualification in psychology or social work, Regina will become the only family member with a bachelor degree.
Regina’s future goals include working with disadvantaged children at risk, focusing on the prevention of harm and abuse through teaching protective behaviours. These skills extend far beyond the initial training of working with children and crisis counselling. In addition to seeing herself as a positive role model in the community, Regina plans to become a child advocate, crisis counsellor and a trainer in protective behaviours.
In the meantime, Regina is gaining work experience in her role as a mentor at the Aboriginal Workforce Development Centre in Geraldton and continuing her studies with a Diploma of Community Services Work and a Diploma of Counselling, as well as the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid training course.