Aboriginal Kooma woman Dianne Lucas lost her mother two years ago, having already suffered the passing of her older brothers. In spite of adversity, she found the strength and resilience to step up and continue the legacy of her ancestors. Each day, Di draws on her profound experience to balance her cultural responsibilities with a vital role as Senior Indigenous Workforce Advisor at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).
Intergenerational strength: resilience and aspiration from day one
Di began her career as a Trainee Administrative Assistant with Toowoomba Regional Council at just 16. Since then, she has gained over 20 years’ experience across local, state and federal government in housing, education and health. However, it could have all been so different. Raised in a single parent family, Di had a difficult childhood and the support from her aunts, uncle and older cousins played a big part in shaping who she is today. Indeed, looking back, she points to those memories of hardship as a key source of motivation.
'Like most Aboriginal people, I experienced many challenges growing up and turned to reading books as part of my coping mechanism. I didn’t have a lot, but that made me determined to overcome barriers - to pursue a better life.'
As her colleague Dr Kathryn Gilbey says, 'Di’s character is marked by a dogged determination and an unmatched selflessness. We talk about trauma. Di is an example of intergenerational strength.'
Before the age of 40, Di lost her older twin brothers in separate tragedies. Needless to say, the subsequent passing of her mother was both devastating and life-changing. As the oldest remaining sibling, Di was placed inadvertently in a leadership position within her kinship structure.
'Cultural leadership responsibilities are handed down to the eldest in the family. Since the loss of my beloved mother, I have been developing my skills as a cultural leader and role model to my mother’s 17 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, including my own three children and one granddaughter. It’s a huge responsibility. I must maintain connection with my Elders and listen to their storytelling from their memories to inform me of who we are as Kooma people and pass these stories on to the future generations to strengthen their identity as descendants of Kooma nation.'
Di and USQ: true purpose, meaning and impact
As a local Kooma woman and an experienced member of the USQ team, Di plays an important role in strengthening the University’s relationship with our local Indigenous community. The University’s goal is to increase our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce representation to 3% by 2020 and we’ve been working on a number of workforce strategies to get there.
'In my role, I engage staff, review current policies, advise on cultural issues and educate the University on how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people approach the workplace. I connect local Indigenous people with USQ and look at ways that Indigenous staff can be empowered to bring their best self to work.'
With great passion, Di shares why she chooses to bring her experience and expertise to USQ.
'There is a wealth of opportunity here. As an Indigenous person, you’re empowered to share your knowledge. USQ has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Network and culturally safe spaces that allow identified staff to be with their mob, be their authentic self and speak about matters from our hearts.'
She continues, 'I also feel the University really invests in me as an Aboriginal person. USQ offers cultural and ceremonial leave, which has allowed me to continue my cultural development. It means I can stay connected with country and learn stories to pass down. I took my leave when I lost my mum. It meant so much to me. I haven’t heard of this leave being offered elsewhere. USQ does not simply offer the same as other employers - they go beyond. It’s a powerful gesture that cultivates connections between USQ and our cultural community.'
Di says she strives to be a change agent for her people.
'I want to leave a legacy that continues the journey from my ancestors to the next generation. I’m still fighting the fight. When my granddaughter comes to a place like this, she should be able to be herself. I look forward to the day that everyone can have a relationship with one another without fear.'
Find out more about current career opportunities and what it’s like to work at USQ.