Creating opportunities: Volunteering

Have you looked at any job advertisements?

A lot of job ads ask for previous experience in the industry. But how do you get ‘experience’ when you have not yet been employed?

When we asked about people’s career paths, many actually started their careers unpaid, doing volunteering and placements which gave them opportunities to expand their networks and opened the doors to full-time employment.

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When I graduated university, I had landed my placement with rugby union as a game development officer. So I was going around Melbourne with the game development officer and working in schools and doing rugby clinics, working with kids and teaching them the fundamental skills of rugby union.

I knew nothing about rugby union because I’m a rugby league girl. But the fundamentals are similar, passing the ball, catching the ball, falling over, technique and tackling and whatnot. And so I started off there and then eventually, I run a youth program. I’d run a youth program for five years and I met a game development officer for rugby league. I made that connection and then did placement with the NRL in Sunraysia. And I was like, “Wow, how things work out!” I made that connection from my placement, it turned into an internship, from an internship it turned into…when I graduated after the internship, they gave me a casual position. And from that casual position, it turned into full-time in my community, using it as a vehicle.


After I had volunteered at age 15 with […] City Council, on a youth committee that they had, I worked my way up and got a casual position as a program youth worker. This was before I even finished my Certificate IV in Youth Work. When I finished the casual position, that’s when I finished my Cert IV, and then worked my way up in […] City Council to become a full-time youth development officer. From there was there for three years or so. How long ago was this? 21, 22 was when I got my position at […] as a youth worker. Working for them had been great because it was giving me the opportunity to impact other young people that had similar upbringings to how I grew up, having the extra responsibility and teachers not knowing that. I think a lot of the times back in high school, a lot of the teachers have this stigma or stereotype attached to Islanders and said that, “Nah it’s right, you’re a dropout. You’re just going to go straight to a warehouse.” I wanted to change that and I did, through the work that I was able to do at […], as a youth worker, impacting other young people, specifically Māori and Pasifika young people and empowering them to be the best they can be.


I finally finished, I graduated with my degree and decided instead of getting a job in my field that I was going to go home and go back and work out on the block. And it was just a way of me reconnecting with my why. So when I actually finished I decided to go back home and work out on the farm just to remind me of where I came from.

So I went and worked out on the farm and then I stayed at home and decided just to reconnect with my Mum. And then my sisters became Mums, and I became the travelling babysitter. So as one would have a kid and then the other one would have a kid and I was sent to Melbourne, I was sent back to Mildura for the babies and after maybe two or three trips of doing that, I decided that was enough. And that I was actually going to go and get a job in the field that I spent all these years studying for. And because it had been a while since I had done my last set of teaching rounds, I thought I’ll call around schools in Mildura and Robinvale and see if I can do some volunteer work.

Just to get back into the classroom, get a feel for being back in the classroom again and then we’ll see how we go from there and I’ll start applying for jobs after. I called a few schools in Mildura, I didn’t hear back from them. And then I called a school in Robinvale and they called me back and they said, “Oh, we’re always looking for volunteers. If you’d like, come around tomorrow and we’ll meet you and we’ll see what we can do.”

So I went to Robinvale and they straight away said, “Oh, well, we’ll take you if you want to start next week. And you can come in and do some volunteer work just to make sure you have your Working with Children’s Check and everything organised.” And while I was there, I was talking to one of the, I think she was a leading teacher at the time, and she asked me why I was there, why I wanted to volunteer, and I told her that I have my teaching degree. I just haven’t done my VIT. So my Victorian Institute of Teaching registration, and she’s like, “Oh, so you have a teaching degree.” And I said, “I’ve finished I’m just coming back in to try and get the feel of school again.” And she was so excited, she said, “We have so many Pacific Island children at this school.” She’s like, “If you can do your VIT we can get you in. Sometimes when we need a CRT, you’re already here volunteering we can just throw you in where you can actually start teaching instead of just volunteering in the classroom.” She was lovely encouraging me to do that.

And so I went and I started volunteering, funny enough the second week of volunteering, they needed someone to go on camp. And so I went on camp with them. They needed a female to go on camp with the numbers. So I went on camp and then when I got back from camp, they said they needed a Wanip tutor. So it was working with Indigenous students, the Koori students, teaching literacy and numeracy, and they were like the same lady who encouraged me to do my VIT.

She came up and said, “We need a Wanip tutor, would you be willing to do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” Okay. And she was like, “You were great on camp,” – because she and I were the only two, the only female teachers on camp. So she was like, “We need a Wanip tutor, I’ve put your name down. I think you’d be great.” So then I started working with small groups, teaching literacy and numeracy to the Koori students. After that they offered me another position, not a teaching position, but still working with the Indigenous students for literacy and numeracy for the following year. And I was like, “Yep, I’m more than willing to do that. That’s fine.” And then they called me about two weeks before school started because I did my VIT. They called me two weeks before the school started the following year and said that one of the five/six teachers unfortunately had a stroke during Christmas break.

And they’ve seen my VIT has come through, am I happy to go in and teach five/six? “Just fill in for him until he gets back,” and I was like, ”Yep, that’s fine, I can teach five/six.” And it just ended up working out that we had an influx of student enrolments in five/six that we needed an extra teacher. And they just said, “Are you willing to go in and be the actual classroom teacher? The students already know you.” And in I went and started teaching five/six, and I was there for about two years.

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  • Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
  • Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
  • Ashirah – University student
  • Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
  • Chris – Field Officer (HR)
  • Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
  • Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
  • David – App company CEO
  • Elisabeth – Teacher
  • Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
  • Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
  • Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
  • Leki – Physiotherapist
  • Luisa – Registered Nurse
  • Malelega – Legal Assistant
  • Marita – Writer
  • Rose – Workplace Consultant
  • Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
  • Semisi – Lawyer
  • Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
  • Teisa – Medical Doctor
  • Tevita – IT Professional
  • Thom – Make-up Artist
  • Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer
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