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How a mentor helped Djugun woman Jaala Ozies find her own way of changing outcomes for Kimberley youth

6 July 2022

When Australian Rural Leadership Program alumna and former ARLF board member, Anna Carr, sat beside Djugun woman Jaala Ozies on the night of her Milparanga Leadership program graduation, Anna knew it wouldn’t be the last time they spoke to each other.

Anna was struck by Jaala’s commitment to making a profound positive impact on highlighting the effects of youth suicide in her community. When she was selected as Jaala’s mentor in the Milparanga mentoring program a short while later, Anna was grateful and honoured to contribute to that higher purpose. 

‘I could tell that she was on the edge of something big,’ Anna says.

Before Milparanga, Jaala had been working in the Bowen Basin coal mines, some 4000 kilometres away from her traditional homelands in the small Kimberley township of Derby. To realise her commitment to her community and culture, Jaala left mining and started a social work degree. Milparanga helped make that commitment a reality. During her Milparanga graduation speech, she declared her commitment to return home and assist in changing the outcome for youth who saw no way forward in life. So, she did. Jaala returned to Derby and began her first work placement as a social worker. 

‘When I think of Jaala, the first thought that comes to mind is constancy, there is nothing that will get in the way of her working towards her vision,’ Anna says.

‘She reminds me of the courage necessary to step up and do something beyond yourself and beyond your lifetime.’

The pandemic threw a curveball delaying Jaala’s social work placement. The mentoring program had ended, but the pair’s connection rekindled and Jaala rediscovered her trade as a vehicle for her very own and unique way of having an impact.

Going into business, Jaala founded Kimberley Youth Mentoring where she helps youth access the best possible support and guidance to launch successful career pathways that ultimately pave the way for a successful future.

From sharing her story in schools and in youth groups, to running job-ready workshops and advocating on behalf of youth in need, Jaala is on her way to changing the outcome in the Kimberley one youth at a time.

‘By sharing my story and insights from growing up in Derby and Broome and going through those same schools, I can relate to our youth, and this relationship keeps them engaged so they respect me and pay attention,’ Jaala says.

‘When I ask some young people today what they want to do in their life, they don’t know and that really concerns me.

‘I felt like I had goals, direction, and an opportunity – I want to assist in providing that for our young people.’

While her career wish list included nursing, policing, and even becoming a flight attendant, she grabbed the opportunity to become a hairdresser and saw it through.

Today, using her savings from the mining industry, she is also preparing to open Derby’s first barbershop (Walyara Barbershop) and has recently launched her first hair care products with ingredients sourced from traditional bush medicine.

Reflecting on her speech at the graduation night in Canberra, Jaala feels like she is doing what she said she would do. Her mentor, she says, helped her grow in a way that she didn’t think was possible.

Her mentor Anna couldn’t be prouder.

‘How Jaala combines her own background and trade skills to generate an income while facilitating conversations about purpose and vision is inspiring,’ Anna says. 

‘Since sharing part of Jaala’s journey, we have both grown, been vulnerable with each other, and fostered our shared interest in leadership development.’

Our Milparanga Mentoring program is an opportunity for recent Milparanga graduates to get one-on-one coaching by an Australian Rural Leadership Foundation alumnus. As a two-way concept, mentoring gives alumni the opportunity to develop or put their coaching skills to use to have a positive impact on a First Nations graduate.

We encourage graduates of the new 2023 Milparanga Emerging Leadership program to apply as a mentee. Graduates of the 2023 Milparanga Established Leadership program are encouraged to apply as mentors but are welcome to seek mentorship themselves as a mentee. Alumni from previous Milparanga programs are also eligible to apply as mentees or mentors. Alumni of any Australian Rural Leadership Program, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are encouraged to apply as mentors.

While the program formally runs for about two months, it’s not unusual for the trusted and deep connections to remain significantly longer. Mentoring pairs will receive guidance through a series of online workshops to make the most of their mentoring experience. Attendance at the sessions is compulsory. Learn more and apply.