New University of the Sunshine Coast Indigenous graduate Joel Denduck didn’t choose a teaching career to help change trends or become a role model – but that is exactly what he is doing.
The 30-year-old former youth worker from Hervey Bay is playing his part in addressing an under-representation of young Indigenous men in higher education and a chronic shortage of First Nations educators in classrooms.
“I hope through my story, I can be that motivating factor for Indigenous people who might consider teaching as a career and university as a pathway to their career goals,” said Joel, a South Sea Islander and Taribelang Bunda man from the Bundaberg region.
He is now teaching Year 5 students at Hervey Bay’s Star of the Sea Catholic School, a role he began just days after completing a Bachelor of Primary Education at UniSC’s Fraser Coast campus last semester.
“Through my previous experience working with disengaged youth I was lucky to see first-hand how valuable teachers are to young people in the community, which really inspired me to choose teaching as a career,” he said.
“I enjoy working with young people and watching them succeed. Seeing those lightbulb moments now where my students begin to understand and apply the teaching and learning in the classroom is always a highlight.”
While it might not have been his main objective, he is pleased to be in a position where he can positively influence the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
“I want these students to look at me as proof that they can be successful as learners and continue on to further study or employment that provides them a quality life in the future,” Joel said.
“Those who knew me as a kid are probably as surprised as I am that teaching is now my profession, however, over the years I found myself in a position where I was surrounded by people who believed in me and opened my eyes to what my future could be.”
Joel credits the support from UniSC Fraser Coast lecturers and tutors for contributing to his success.
“They engaged with me in a way that gave me confidence in my ability and encouraged me to work to the best of my ability,” he said.
"A beacon for others"
UniSC Associate Director of Indigenous Services Rachel Woodford said that having a new male Indigenous teacher in the Butchulla community was a great beacon for other young community members who could aspire to being educators too.
“You can’t be what you can’t see. Through seeing Joel’s lived experience but also a proud Indigenous man teaching, the benefits are enormous,” Ms Woodford said.
“Our young men don’t traditionally see teaching as a ‘role of choice.’ It’s been predominantly our women. However, we know across all of education, more diversity is required. As an Indigenous teacher, this will also be very relatable to our young indigenous people,” she said.
“It also provides an invaluable cultural lens that only an Indigenous teacher, on staff, can bring to the school. In support of embedding cultural knowledges into the curriculum, Joel will be an invaluable asset.”
Creating opportunities and equity
Creating opportunity for students from diverse backgrounds is a key goal of UniSC, as highlighted in recent results from the Student Experience Survey from 2020 and 2021, published on the Quality Indicators for Teaching and Learning (QILT) website.
The University outshone the national average for student support, through its programs that ensure equal access to study, including students who are the first in their family to study, people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, and from regional and rural areas.
For more information on studying at UniSC go to www.usc.edu.au/study.
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