CareerTrackers is a national non-profit organisation which creates private sector internship opportunities for Indigenous university students. Since 2013, NIDA Corporate has been supporting CareerTrackers employees and interns to become more confident and engaging in their roles through communication and presentation skills training.
We spoke to Kirstine Wallis, an Indigenous professional placed by CareerTrackers at Lendlease, now working as an Assistant Development Manager. Kirstine took up the opportunity to boost her professional skills at NIDA Corporate’s public course, Presenting with Confidence.
What do you do at Lendlease?
I have been Assistant Development Manager at Lendlease for two years in the retirement living sphere. My job is to make the best places for the older generation to live out their lives comfortably with a great community around them.
How did you get into landscape architecture?
I’ve had an amazing career journey which started off in animation. I was doing my first degree and I was working in one of the biggest stop animation studios in the southern hemisphere. I learnt everything about lighting and film sets and scripts and how the whole industry works on a miniature scale.
From there I went to work in props in the art department in short films, TV and feature films. When you work on a feature film set you work with the best technicians in steel and carpentry and people who can get the best outcomes in the shortest time. I learnt so much about construction and sculpture, and became the head sculptor on the Matrix movies series, as well as on the vampire movie Queen of the Dammed and also Scooby Doo.
On film you make things right for the camera, but at the back it’s not a permanent structure. I wanted to make more permanent things, so worked in Macau, China designing and theming casinos and VIP spaces.
When I came back I was wondering where to next? I decided on landscape architecture, urban design, ecology and the outdoor environment.
How did CareerTrackers impact on your career?
I was studying my Masters in Landscape Architecture and was approached by CareerTrackers, which is an amazing company that champions Indigenous people to be the best that they can be. The main aim is to close the gap in Australia between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. They support career development, job ready technique and leadership training, as well as internship programs into Australia’s top companies.
Their annual leadership conference is a big part of their strategy to bring everyone together around leadership courses and networking. It brings you together with people who are in a similar situation to you, to see the broadness of what it is to be an Aboriginal Australian. It raised a lot of questions for me personally as well which I have worked through. The range of people going through the program is huge and it is growing every year. I think next year around 3000 people will go through the program. Now I am alumni and extend my knowledge to people going through the program.
I was lucky enough to be placed with Lendlease as a landscape architect. Now I have progressed to be an Assistant Development Manager which also comes with great responsibility. It’s been a huge journey and one that I didn’t ever think I would be on.
I am the first generation in my family to talk about my Indigenous Yorta Yorta heritage and be proud of it. My mum’s generation hid it. As an Australian woman with Indigenous heritage I can discuss that within a corporate setting within property and land development and also access the knowledge of how to engage with marginalized communities in the right way. Career Trackers also support their program members through people and resources that I can reach out to if I need.
How did the NIDA course boost your professional skills?
When I first signed up for the NIDA Corporate course Presenting with Confidence I wondered what I would get out of it that I didn’t already have. I could already walk into a boardroom and can get up with a microphone on the fly without much preparation and communicate to a room full of people I have never met. What else could I learn?
I was blown away by the instruction throughout the whole course. It was so on point and every single part gave me more confidence and ideas. My biggest problem is that I can tell a story drama and excitement but in my work I have to talk about practical things like finance and burst sewer mains and lots of numbers, finances and budgets. So I have learnt to present those things with confidence, charm and intelligence. I learnt about mind preparation and vocal preparation and how important it is to breathe.
Being able to communicate with authority and command has been a wonderful thing to learn on this course.
What is your five-year plan?
My five year plan is about developing the best places in Australia and bringing more ecology into our cities beyond glass and concrete and steel. Some bigger projects would be great as well – I like being in the thick of it.
For more information on NIDA Corporate Presenting with Confidence public courses.
For more information on Career Trackers Indigenous Internship Program.