Meet Gael Duff
Gael Duff hails from Coonabarabran, a small rural town perched on the Castlereagh River at the foothills of the Warrumbungle Ranges in Central New South Wales.
It’s home to the Kamilaroi Nation – one of the largest Aboriginal Nations in Australia. Their ancient and rich Indigenous history and culture is widespread throughout the town and surrounding areas.
Today, the Aboriginal flag proudly flies on the Council Chambers and the local Kamilaroi language is taught in schools, but Coonabarabran hasn’t always been so accepting of its First Peoples.
“It was a very tough place to grow up in as an Aboriginal person. There was a lack of cultural understanding and stereotyping of First peoples which was engrained within the town”.
“It made it very difficult for young Aboriginal people to progress and achieve their dreams. They had to overcome many obstacles and they had to challenge the social norm”.
“In saying that, there were some very special people who believed all Australians should have an equal opportunity to be successful in life and they were very supportive which helped me to see things in a different light,” said Gael.
Despite the adversity, Gael never let it stop her from pursuing her aspirations in life and her career. Like most young people, Gael didn’t know what she wanted to do after high school so she accepted an opportunity to work in a local travel agency.
“I started out as a junior travel consultant and I developed a real thirst and hunger for the industry,” said Gael.
Gael’s hunger saw her quickly rise through the ranks until she was eventually headhunted by a client company and moved to Queensland. “I moved to Brisbane to take up the role at the Queensland Indigenous Business and Economic Corporation and I assisted in coordinating the first Indigenous Business Conference at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre”.
Gael remained in Brisbane after her contract finished and she progressed into senior management positions within the travel industry, before moving into the resource industry and then into procurement with Cardno.
“I started with Cardno eight months ago to implement the new Travel program and so far, I’m loving it”.
“I’m also a committee member of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program which is very exciting,” said Gael. RAP is a new program that Cardno has embarked on that will help advance our reconciliation journey with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and closing the gap for Indigenous Australians.
“I’m really excited to be part of it because throughout my career I have come across challenges in the workplace regarding a lack of cultural understanding, negativity around traineeships, and not being recognised for your skills”.
Although Gael harbours no negativity, she’s keen to use her new role on the RAP committee to help educate a better cultural understanding in the workplace. Today marks the beginning of NAIDOC Week, a week of celebrations held across Australia to honour our Indigenous history and culture, and the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. For Gael, NAIDOC week is all about embracing, accepting and celebrating our shared Australian culture.
“Since Colonisation, Indigenous people were told that they couldn’t speak their own language and be who they were born to be so NAIDOC week is all about celebrating who we are”.
This year’s NAIDOC week theme is Voice, Treaty and Truth.
It’s about giving Indigenous people a voice in the decision making of our country, having a treaty that acknowledges the past; and a shared truthful understanding so we can move forward together.
Voice, Treaty and Truth are the three key elements to the reforms set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and it’s something that is close to the heart of all Indigenous people.
“To have a treaty that acknowledges - not necessarily all the disadvantages – but more importantly, that we are valued enough to be included within this country that we love would mean a great deal”.
Gael is pleased that cultural acceptance has come a long way since the early days in Coonabarabran but admits there’s still a long way to go.
“The train has left the station but we haven’t arrived at our destination yet,” said Gael.
Get onboard the train and show your support by attending a NAIDOC week event. Events guide here.