Being one of the welcoming faces for incoming and current students at the School of Indigenous Studies (SIS) is just one of the things Sabrina Swift enjoys about her job.
Coming from the Bardi people from north of Broome and the Gija people in the East Kimberley, Sabrina knows what it’s like to be new to a community and hopes she can play a role in helping students find their feet at SIS.
In addition to being a familiar face to students, she is the go-to-person for most of the daily operations of the School.
As a Senior Administrative Officer and Executive Assistant to the Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) Indigenous Education, Sabrina is involved in running the busy SIS office and the Office of the PVC, particularly human resource and business needs. If this alone doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is also involved in activities that support teaching and learning.
Despite her own heritage and a strong connection to Country, Sabrina says she still learns a great deal from colleagues at SIS and from the Aboriginal students who come to study at UWA from various, and often remote, regions across Australia.
“The work at the School is just so rewarding. We get to meet a lot of students who are proud of their traditions and beliefs and generously share their life stories with us.
“It makes us a very close-knit community and welcoming to all. Our students are the life-force of our School and there’s nothing better than seeing them achieve and be proud that they are at University becoming role models and leaders for their communities.
“We often hear from graduates telling us how they have progressed in their careers post UWA and the kind of difference the School made along the way. It’s a good feeling,” Sabrina says.
As for what’s in the works at SIS this year, Sabrina says that there are many projects underway including raising awareness of UWA’s Indigenous commitment in the broader community and on campus; and contributing to the development of a new Indigenous Studies building.
Sabrina also manages the administration of the Perth-based Poche Centre for Indigenous Health which aims to improve culture, wellbeing and mental health in Aboriginal young people, improving Aboriginal children’s health and development and chronic diseases in Aboriginal people.
Sabrina’s other passion is writing and you can often find her presenting her written work to young audiences. She was guest speaker at the Kimberley Writers Festival in Kununurra last year and was recently invited to present her book Cyclones and Shadows at this year’s Perth Festival Writers Week on campus.
The collection of stories in this publication as well as her earlier work Lilli and Shadow in Trouble is inspired by her carefree childhood in Darwin. More importantly, the stories honour her grandmother’s love of storytelling and sharing of outdoor adventures.
“I was inspired by my grandmother’s stories of mud crab tying, for which she was awarded a title of champion, as well as her outrageous adventures that used to fascinate me when I was a child.
“A lot of my story ideas go back to my childhood, my Aboriginal heritage and the love of being outside with nature.
“I feel like I just need to turn some of my childhood experiences and my absolute love of storytelling to paper,” she says.
As a mother of two primary school kids, she proudly admits that seeing her children’s faces light up as she tells them her own stories makes her even more passionate about writing.
We cannot wait to see what her love of storytelling brings out in her next publication.