Journey to Red Centre a cultural revelation

JACQUELINE Gibbs has been putting her heart and soul into learning how to become a leader as an example for her children.

The 22-year-old single mum works at NSW Western Medicare Local as the Aboriginal Chronic Disease Liaison Officer. She is also the case manager for the Kelso Indigenous Chronic Disease Clinic, which runs every Thursday.

Jacqueline has been with NSW Western Medicare Local for the past three years, and before that worked at Bathurst hospital.

She is currently participating in the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program which runs over two years.

The program was created to be a life-changing experience that extends the leadership capabilities of young leaders and mentors. 

Training is designed to strengthen leadership and employability skills along with providing knowledge of the education and training opportunities available to participants. 

Participants are exposed to different cultures and cultural practices by travelling to locations like remote Central Australia for a cultural walk, and to Papua New Guinea to walk the Kokoda Trail.

Jacqueline started the program in January this year and is almost half way through.

One of the major challenges she has faced so far was walking part of the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia. She covered around 70km and said she learned not only how to be herself, but how to be a more confident version of herself.

“One of the most challenging things was learning about indigenous culture when you don’t know all that much about it,” Jacqueline said.

“I know a fair bit, but that land is so rich in culture.

“The kids up there are surrounded by it, but don’t really get among it.”

Jacqueline said she wanted to be part of the program because it reflects her values and what she wants to do with her life.

“I want to become a community leader for my children,” she said.

She has two children: three-year-old daughter Djillirra and 19-month-old son Djani Lebron.

“They make me push harder for everything,” Jacqueline said.

“I want to lead by example for those two.

“They’re why I want to do it – to develop skills and my future. 

“But mostly I want them to say one day they are proud of me.”

Three young leaders plus a mentor were selected from each state. They are all aged between 18 and 24.

Jacqueline was born in Goodooga in the north west of NSW close to the Queensland border.

She has two brothers and three sisters.

“It was a good place to grow up with a lot of freedom – but my dad was very strict and we had to get home by a certain time or we were in trouble,” she said.

"I love living in the country because it’s more low key. 

“The bush is home. I don’t get back very often.”

At 13, she left with her family to live in Goondiwindi for a year. A school in Blacktown followed, and then she and her sister went to a boarding school in Sydney. 

“Blacktown was a real eye-opener for me. I didn’t understand the different cultures,” she said.

“I was really shy and it was all a bit bewildering.”

In many ways, boarding school was tough, although fortunately her sister went with her. She said they were very focused on looking out for each other.

The girls attended boarding school from Years 9 to 12.

“At first we cried our eyes out, we were so scared,” she said.

“We were little and frightened. It was daunting but we got used to it, and by Year 12, we loved it.”

After finishing school, Jacqueline did an internship at the National Australia Bank in Sydney, then went to TAFE where she studied to be a nursing assistant in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Healthcare. 

“Then I fell pregnant and came to work at Bathurst hospital,” Jacqueline said.

“We decided to move to Bathurst because we had family here.”

For now, she is concentrating on raising the $4000 she needs to tackle Kokoda next year. She is also aiming to get really fit and stay that way.

“I think it’s really important to be healthy because others will follow your example,” she said.

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