DESPITE being nominated for a Community Leadership Award at the WA Youth Awards, Osborne Park resident Tiana Culbong says her passion for her community is the driving force behind her youth work.
While studying a masters degree in Public Health through Deakin University, Ms Culbong works for the Telethon Kids Institute as a representative of Kulunga Aboriginal Research Development, a group dedicated to creating a stronger youth voice.
“I’m particularly interested in Aboriginal youth health and wellbeing, which will eventually be the focus of my PhD,” she said.
“I always knew I was going to work in and for my community, so it was just a matter of deciding what area I was going to focus on.”
The 25-year-old’s community contribution began in 2014, when she worked with Centrecare and was responsible for the case management of eight Aboriginal young people in state care.
Ms Culbong said challenges facing her community needed to be viewed holistically.
“Growing up, I witnessed this cycle of destruction and it is ongoing and I think it’s never addressed as a whole, it’s only ever addressing one issue at a time,” she said.
“As an Aboriginal person, you are able to see this issue holistically and if you don’t address things on a larger scale there will be no positive impact.
“I think starting early when you start to see this intergenerational trauma occur, that’s when things need to be addressed.”
As a Noongar woman, Ms Culbong said a passion for her community and youth health and wellbeing was first and foremost.
“I’m passionate about my community, I’m passionate about my peers and my family and growing up and having the same opportunities as everybody else,” she said.
“I do what I do because I love it and because I want to see future generations not have to struggle the way my grandparents did or my parents did.
“I felt honoured to be nominated, but winning isn’t everything. If I can advance my community, that’s the prize I’m seeking.”
Ms Culbong said misconceptions about Aboriginal people came from a lack of education.
“They don’t see what the big deal is. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on education so it’s not about ‘us and them’, it’s more about uniting as one front and moving forward together as a whole population, instead of this constant divide.”