Emma Lee Rowland

Emma Lee Rowland

Darwin teen proves value of education

Darwin teenager Emma Lee Rowland has built a bright future for herself by harnessing a virtuous cycle of education and work.

While her friends were doing retail jobs, Emma sacrificed a year of pay and went to uni instead. That helped her land a role as an Administration Assistant with the New Future Alliance, a part of the Strategic Indigenous Housing Infrastructure Program in the Northern Territory. 

Now, just six months later, her employer through the Alliance has agreed to pay for her to do an Arts degree at Edith Cowan University in Perth, while continuing to work with them full-time. 

If all goes to plan, in four years time Emma will have a degree under her belt and a range of career options that would never have been open to her had she not invested in study.

“I’m going to become a formal Trainee and go to uni this year and then come back after my four years and see where it takes me,” Emma said. “But there’s no way I could do what I’m doing without the company’s support. I’d struggle a lot, especially financially and work wise.”

Over the next four years Emma will work to climb the ladder at the Alliance, but will also consider a career in teaching, with a special focus on teaching Indigenous children.

Emma, whose mother is a Tiwi Islander, says she loves children and has a special affinity for Indigenous kids.

“What attracts me is the kids. They’re so cute,” she said. “I’d like to be a teacher especially with Indigenous children because I can really relate to them. I know and understand what they think and how they think. Most of the time...”

Emma says she could offer something in short supply in the teaching industry – an Indigenous perspective. 

“They have a lot of white teachers out there but they need more Indigenous teachers,” she said. “I could see myself working with Indigenous children on the outskirts of Darwin.”

Emma says her Indigenous background gives her a special advantage with her current employer because her colleagues often ask for her advice in their dealing with Indigenous communities where homes are being built.

“Because we work in Indigenous housing a lot of people here ask my opinion and that’s good,” Emma said. “I’m down to earth so I can see both sides because I come from both sides. Hopefully, in the future I’ll also be able to get out there into the communities as well.”

Whatever happens, Emma says she is streets ahead of her friends who have invested in study and retail jobs but do not have the support of an employer behind them.

“They’re working at shops and I’m working in an office,” she said. “It’s just more satisfying because it’s a job for the future.” 

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