Scholarship winner Kristy Masella
Scholarship winner Kristy Masella

Indigenous leader proud to educate her community

AS A young Murri girl growing up in Rockhampton, Dharumbal country, two things were continuously drilled into Kristy Masella; the importance of education and her duty to her community.

Now, two decades later, as the CEO of Aboriginal Employment Strategy and one of the latest recipients of the Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation Scholarship, it is obvious these are principals she continues to live by.

Ms Masella is a trailblazer, the first in her family to complete high school and go to university.

She has worked her entire life to serve and protect the community that raised her.

"That strong sense of duty to your community was always very much drilled into me, the importance of giving back to your community," she said.

"And that's not just Rockhampton, that's indigenous people across the country."

After graduating from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Journalism, Ms Masella began her career championing indigenous rights.

Roughly five years ago, after working for 16 years as a public servant, Ms Masella took the position of CEO at the AES where she supports members of her community into employment.

Since its establishment the AES has supported more than 25,000 indigenous people into employment and more than 2500 into trainee and internships.

According to Ms Masella, the service provides a culturally safe space where indigenous people don't feel as though they need to explain or justify their circumstances.

"Aboriginal people love the fact that we come with that cultural and social knowledge," she said.

"It's a culturally safe environment and there is no judgment."

"Our staff are all Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, so it's a welcoming, safe sense of family service that knows how to appropriately respond to their needs."

However, despite their success, the work is rarely easy.

Ms Masella admits working with the government and other stakeholders is becoming increasingly complex.

"I've found in my experience over the past 25 years that governments keep changing the game all the time, they change the rules, governments come and go, ministers come and go and we're kind of just left fighting the good fight," she said.

"It's a challenging environment because it's a political environment and we're competing with other non-Aboriginal NGOs who are providing a valuable service, but I guess the government has only got so much to go around."

In an attempt to better navigate this environment, Ms Masella recently applied for the Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation Scholarship.

"We've just come through a period of bushfires, floods and now coronavirus and like everybody it's had a massive impact on our communities, so I was looking for ways to be innovative and reinvent service delivery," she said.

On Wednesday it was announced that Ms Masella's application was successful when she was named one of the three scholarship winners.

The Scholarship will enable Ms Masella to attend an executive education program at Harvard Kennedy School, Boston, Massachusetts later this year.

"I'm hoping the Harvard program is going to give me fresh insight, maybe some new connections in Australia and abroad as well."

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