Western Australian woman Sky Dickerson is an emerging Indigenous leader with her sights now set on much greater ambitions, thanks to the confidence she has gained through the Milparanga Emerging Leadership Program.
The young Kariyarra woman has finally landed her dream job as a heavy diesel fitter.
Getting there has been a journey of self-awareness, belief and throwing caution to the wind. What she has learned along the way is now the basis for a desire to share her learnings with others.
The 27-year-old Carnarvon woman made a courageous, life-changing decision to pack up and travel 900-kilometres south to Perth to chase the dream. It is her first time living away from the town she has always called home. It has also opened her eyes to a big world of opportunity.
However, Sky says none of it would have been possible if she had not undertaken Milparanga.
Identified in her community as an emerging leader, Sky took a leap of faith in 2022 and signed up for the program, and she has not looked back. She says it has changed her life and given her the confidence to stand up, speak up and be who she wants to be.
A dream realised through Milparanga
“This is the job I have always wanted, and now I’ve got a two-year apprenticeship and am absolutely loving it,” Sky said. “If it wasn’t for the Milparanga program and the confidence I gained, I never would have applied for the job I’ve always wanted.”
Sky previously had a good job, working in an administration role in Indigenous family law in Carnarvon, but it did not ignite her passion. She had always known she wanted to work on cars but says the opportunity to pursue it was not available to her in her remote hometown.
After completing the program in 2022, Sky came home with a just go-for-it attitude, applied for a heavy diesel fitting apprenticeship and got the job.
A vision for the future
Beyond her wildest dreams, these days she is working on large mining trucks and dozers. But she also has a clear career path forward, with a leadership role in her sights.
As one of only two Indigenous workers on her crew, Sky has seen a need for more people like her to encourage other First Nations workers to follow their dreams.
“I want to finish my apprenticeship, work two years on-site and come back to the BHP FutureFit Academy and be a supervisor or trainer,” Sky said. “There are no female Aboriginal trainers here. It’s not about being the first, it’s about making it a place where Aboriginal people can feel comfortable.”
Sky was encouraged to apply for Milparanga by a mentor at the Gascoyne Youth Working Group.
Through the group, Sky had been part of a youth forum, working with other young people from Carnarvon and surrounds to identify some of the key issues they were facing. Mental health, drug abuse and housing for young indigenous people were identified as the key concerns.
Trusting the process
The experience set Sky on a path to wanting to help others, so when Milparanga was suggested, she decided to give it a go.
She admits she started the program as a shy, scared and anxious participant. However, Sky emerged a stronger person, full of self-belief.
“We didn’t know where we were going or what we were going to be doing in Milparanga,” Sky said. “We were just told to trust the process, and that has carried with me even today. If something is not moving as fast as I would like it to, I sit back and think ‘just trust the process’.”
The program also helped Sky overcome her fear of public speaking. As part of her new apprenticeship, she was asked to do a presentation about herself, highlighting her strengths and weaknesses. Unsurprisingly to those who know her now, she nailed it, but Sky said her old self would not have even contemplated being able to do it.
“I just got up there, worked through it and did not mess up one bit,” she said.
“I thought afterwards, gosh, I would never have been able to do that before I did the Milparanga program. That’s how powerful Milparanga is.
“One of the other alumni said to me, ‘you’ve changed a lot’, and I thought about it and yeah, I think Milparanga has changed me, but for the better.”