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Transferable skills catapaulted Yvonne's career

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Balance work, life and study, Changing careers, Humanitarian, Disaster and Emergency Management, Nursing and Midwifery, Online study
CDU Alumni Awards nominee Yvonne Williams

Yvonne always planned to go to university, but young motherhood put her plans on pause – at least for a decade or two. Instead, she spent almost 20 years working as a carer in aged and palliative care.

As her youngest child approached adulthood, Yvonne started enquiring and discovered that Charles Darwin University had a nursing degree that she could study online.

This was perfect for me as I worked two jobs, took care of my home and family and needed flexibility in my studies.

“My gorgeous mum and a number of her sisters were nurses,” she adds. “They grew up in Pine Creek, so the Northern Territory connection was another bonus.”

Switching gears

Yvonne completed her nursing degree right before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in 2020. With an immunocompromised mother, Yvonne didn’t want to risk added exposure working as a nurse.

She decided to keep studying instead.

“I chose emergency and disaster management as a way to shift me from my comfort zone and learn more about the circumstances of others around the world, the things that impact their lives when dealing with crises and how our systems and governance play such an integral role.”

Now holding a wealth of knowledge across two diverse study areas, Yvonne found that the transferable skills she gained were incredibly valuable.

Despite not working in the field of either nursing or disaster management, I have been able to secure leadership roles using both the qualifications and the learned experience gained through both courses.

She attributes her skills in critical thinking, emotional intelligence, managing stressful situations and leading teams to her nursing degree, while her disaster management studies built her skills in public policy, community engagement, process improvement and communication.

A new career

Thanks to the “comprehensive focus on First Nations knowledge, themes and teachings embedded in all CDU units”, Yvonne found a new passion—and a new career.

“I realised in my 30s that I knew so little of the beautiful Indigenous culture, that we were taught so little in schools. I felt ashamed.”

She took the opportunity to select units on Indigenous research methodologies and practices.

“What I encountered was some of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, so far removed from the Western style I’d been accustomed to.”

She followed this new passion to a leadership role as Institute Manager at the National Indigenous Knowledges Education Research Innovation (NIKERI) at Deakin University.

It is such a great achievement for me, especially having commenced my tertiary journey in my late 30s, completing my first degree at 44.

Yvonne Williams has been nominated for an Alumni Award for Early Career Achievement in the 2023 CDU Alumni Awards.

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