Six years ago, Kylie McElhone was juggling being a wife and mother of two teenagers, a full-time career woman and university student, all while searching for crucial answers to her family history and cultural identity.
She might have had her doubts, but with a strength, determination and a passion for learning that has characterised much of her life, she made it through with flying colours.
Today, her wealth of diverse professional and personal experience not only gives her an incredible life story, but powerful insight and empathy in her role as a Professional Officer within CEDoW’s Child Protection - Safety, Wellbeing & Professional Services (SWAPS) team.
In celebration of NAIDOC Week and this year’s theme, ‘Because of her, we can!’, we spoke to Kylie about her journey in a four-part audio interview below...
role in Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong
LISTEN to Kylie on her role in Child Protection in Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong - including a contribution from CEDoW SWAPS Team Leader, Marg Chittick.
“I love this position, because it’s never the same thing every day,” Kylie says.
“There’s satisfaction knowing that at the end of the day, you’re doing everything you possibly can to make sure kids are safe and they’re in an environment where they can learn to the best of their ability."
"Education is pivotal, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity that Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong has given me, and that there is a strong focus on empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures being embedded in school learning.
“It makes me so proud, it’s a really good feeling to work for an organisation that has that focus.”
Background, Family and Aboriginal Culture & identity
LISTEN to Kylie share some of her background and the events that led to her discovering more of her Aboriginal culture and identity.
Family is everything to Kylie. Her mother is her inspiration and a strong presence in her life. She’s also married, with two children - Jayme, 21, and Riley, 17.
“My husband is pretty amazing, he is very supportive and a great dad,” Kylie says, “I think our children are our greatest achievement. They are very strong, proud and dedicated young people that we both are very proud of.”
Along with her mother and the maternal side of her family, Kylie is also a proud Aboriginal woman. But the search for her family history, culture and identity has been a long and sometimes arduous road.
finding a sense of belonging
LISTEN to Kylie talk about gaining a sense of belonging and connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in her adult life - including a moving moment Kylie had with her mother at the recent Bellambi Reconciliation Walk.
Kylie comes from a large extended family of people who have provided service to the community - including as paramedics, nurses, police officers and members of the armed forces.
This is where her passion for helping, supporting and protecting others has come from and guided her career path to date - from a vet nurse, to Deputy Registrar of the Port Kembla Court House, to working in women’s refuges and as a Senior Youth Worker at Keelong Juvenile Justice Centre.
Kylie started her working career as a volunteer at the RSPCA - something her dad insisted on: “My dad believed it was important to give back to the community. He wouldn’t let us get jobs when we were at school. Instead, we had to volunteer at our local not-for-profit, which I really enjoyed. I stayed there for seven years.”
valuable career experience: Kylie's road to CEDoW
LISTEN to Kylie on the variety of jobs she has undertaken before making her way to Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong in 2007 - all that have given her valuable experience for her current role.
Kylie has a strong passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, which is clearly reflected in her work at CEDoW. She is a full member of the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, which represents the Aboriginal community viewpoint in providing advice on all matters relevant to education and training in the region.
In 2016, Kylie also completed a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction, majoring in Employment Relations and Legal Studies and minoring in Indigenous Studies.
"I believe that education is key to empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I also believe this education needs to be relevant and have cultural connection.
"A big part of this is having Aboriginal educators - teachers who are Aboriginal and Aboriginal Education Assistants - who have a deeper understanding of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students learn and the issues that impact on their learning. That’s really important."
Read more about CEDoW’s NAIDOC celebrations here - including a message from the Director and a video from students across the Diocese who pay tribute to the incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in our CEDoW community, inspired by this year's NAIDOC theme: Because of her, we can!