TAFE Queensland contributing to the lives of young people

March 2024

By Jessica Addo

Jessica is passionate about ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience positive learning environments.

I am 30 years old, I have a daughter and I was born and raised in Cairns. I identify as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. From my mother’s side, our family is connected with Yarrabah and I have family on my father’s side at Mornington Island. But my deepest contact with community is through my grandmother at Mapoon.

It has always been my passion to become a primary school teacher because I want to help make a difference in children’s lives. When I heard about the RATEP Indigenous teacher education program at TAFE Queensland, I knew I wanted to enrol. RATEP provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with the opportunity to gain hands-on classroom skills and a qualification as a teacher assistant. Students can then choose to pathway to James Cook University to study for a Bachelor of Education.

TAEF Queensland student, Jessica Addo

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators bring valuable community and cultural knowledge to education settings. These educators play a significant role in their communities because they have a deep understanding of the local context, languages, histories and cultures. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children love seeing people from their own culture work in classrooms because they connect naturally. Having a teacher who can speak their language makes a positive impact and creates close relationships.

Before enrolling, I was working a full-time job and did not have the capacity to study. But I was so determined to follow my goals that I resigned and found part-time employment so I could start my training. Working part-time allows me to study in the mornings and work in the afternoons. Sometimes you need to make sacrifices – it all comes down to how badly you want something and the belief that your hard work will pay off!

I am happy I chose RATEP because I received full support, both professionally and personally. Through hard times in my personal life, my teacher coordinators were there for me. During my studies, I went through Sorry Business unexpectedly. RATEP allowed me to take time off and I was able to continue studying when I was ready to return. There was never any pressure and the staff were very understanding – I received full support from everyone.

RATEP was very hands-on. I completed a Certificate IV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education (10751NAT) and a Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education (10753NAT). I was awarded a Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) Scholarship while studying my diploma. Having access to a VET Student Loan and securing a scholarship through QTAC made a difference as it helped cover the cost of things like books and stationery.

On top of assessments, I also undertook 200 hours of practical work in a classroom to complete my qualifications. My training provided me with the skills required to be successful in a job. Before completing my studies, I gained a permanent role as a coordinator in an outside school hours care service. Since gaining my diploma, I have been able to transition from an administration role into a service manager position.