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Indigenous youth leader embodies ANZAC spirit

By Katie Weiss

Indigenous youth leader Joelene Puntoriero will help build a classroom at an orphanage near the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea Indigenous youth leader Joelene Puntoriero will help build a classroom at an orphanage near the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea

A youth leader will embrace her Indigenous heritage as she follows in the footsteps of Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Track.

Proud young Arrernte woman Joelene Puntoriero is raising money to take part in the trek and help build a classroom at a village orphanage about half way along the rugged track.

Joelene plans to undertake a Bachelor of Health Science at Charles Darwin University with the view to working in pharmacy in remote Northern Territory communities.

“It is so inspiring to study in the Northern Territory,” Joelene said.

“Studying in the Territory will help me discover more about my Aboriginal heritage and, eventually, reconnect with my people and culture.”

Joelene discovered her desire to work in the field as an Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges Education (ACIKE) Preparation for Tertiary Success student at CDU’s Casuarina campus.

She said she was preparing for the 96km Kokoda Leadership Trek by loading weights in her backpack and climbing the Elizabeth Valley hill near her Darwin home.

Joelene will join 26 other youth leaders on the trek from June 5 to 11 as a participant in the Jobs Australia Foundation Indigenous Youth Leadership Program.

“I will then be able to use my leadership skills in my community to help encourage reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians,” she said.

ACIKE has donated $2500 to help Joelene on her way. ACIKE is a joint initiative of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and CDU in the delivery of higher education.

Director of ACIKE, Professor Steven Larkin congratulated Joelene on her determination.

“Joelene is a wonderful example of the ACIKE student cohort – ambitious, talented, and career-oriented – and the extracurricular work she’s doing in the leadership area will stand her in good stead for her future,” he said.

“We were only too happy to support her.”