News • 17 May 2018

Meet our Indigenous Engagement Officer, Russell Tighe

Meet our Indigenous Engagement Officer, Russell Tighe

“A wise man once told me to `be the change you want in your community’.”

Russell, known as Russ, has worked at Open Minds for over two years, having first joined in March 2016. In addition to his official job role as Indigenous Engagement Officer, Russ is also Chair of Open Minds Reconciliation Action Group Committee.

Russ has a lot of responsibilities both in his role at Open Minds and outside of work; he is a voluntary Rugby League Coach often dedicating well over 20 hours per week to coaching on top of his full-time role and taking care of his family.

Russ said: “My coaching work can involve picking lads up for training and dropping them off or taking them to game day. I sometimes find myself more of a mentor than a coach, as some of the young people that I coach don’t have a male role model in their lives. I grew up not having a car and know first hand what it is like to miss something that you love due to a barrier such as transport, and I vowed that if I was ever in a position, I would ensure I would not let a young person experience what I have.”

 

Russ juggling coaching and family life, with his daughter on his hip

 

Part of his role at Open Minds is to oversee the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to ensure goals are met in terms of the Open Minds commitment to the RAP.

The RAP provides a framework for organisations to support the national reconciliation movement; to build relationships, respect, and trust between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

Russ works under the Open Minds Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMS) umbrella. This means that part of that role is overseeing Indigenous clients that are on the PHaMS program, as well as providing guidance and support for staff that are supporting Indigenous participants.

A typical day could involve a lot of community engagement as Russ currently covers Ipswich, Caboolture, and also the Bayside and Logan regions. He is responsible for building partnerships and strengthening referral pathways for Open Minds.

When Russ joined the PHaMs program in 2017, there were just two Indigenous participants registered to the Open Minds Caboolture region. There are now 12 participants who identify as Indigenous which is a good number for the region.

Open Minds are currently implementing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy, with the objective of better recruiting and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. Russ is at the forefront of this initiative and wants to ensure that we not only recruit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, but also support them well to retain them.

Russ currently holds two Diplomas, in Community Welfare and in Justice. When he originally started studying his Justice diploma he quickly realised that in order to really help the community, he needed to fully understand the issues of the community presenting to the Justice system. This led to him completing a dual diploma including Community Welfare. This was a first for South Bank Tafe and as a result, Tafe now offers dual Diplomas.

Russ said: “I have had the opportunity to work with various groups across the community sectors including youth, mental health, and family support, these roles have taken me on some fantastic journeys.

“For me it has been a privilege working with men in maximum security prisons, young people engaged with the justice system and taking the journey with young people in and out of home care.

“The thing I enjoy most about my job is having the opportunity to share knowledge. A huge part of our culture is the transferring of knowledge, and for me to be in a position where I have the opportunity to share and transfer my knowledge is massive.”

In his spare time and when he’s not coaching, Russ enjoys spending time with his family and supporting his children.

Russ said: “My drive comes from having a passion for helping others and always wanting to see others succeed. I am a strong advocate for Social Justice and I feel that being in a position such as my current role allows me the opportunity to not only empower individuals but our community.

Russ has provided a quote, below, by Professor Mick Dobson, Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at The Australian National University and Professor of law at the ANU College of Law:

“When we talk about traditional Country... we mean something beyond the dictionary definition of the word.
“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders… we mean homeland, tribal or clan areas and we mean more than just a place on the map.
“For us Country is a word for all the values, places, resources, stories and cultural obligations associated with that area and its features. It describes the entirety of our ancestral domains.
“While they may no longer necessary be the title holders to land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Australians are still connected to country of their ancestors and most consider themselves the custodians or caretakers of their land.”
- Mick Dobson

Russ currently supports a total of 21 participants who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. If you are interested in finding out how Open Minds employees like Russ can support you or someone you know, get in touch with us today on 1300 673 664 or email us at enquiries@openminds.org.au.

Alternatively, if you work in the disability and mental health sector and are interested in finding out about employment opportunities, we welcome expressions of interest from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Take a look at our careers page to see what opportunites we have available.