Shouwn leverages the power of education
Shouwn Oosting When Lumen featured alumnus Shouwn Oosting in 2003, he was graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce while breaking new ground as the University’s first Indigenous mace bearer. Since then Shouwn has leveraged his education to pursue what he is really passionate about – improving outcomes for Aboriginal people.
As an Aboriginal person, Shouwn Oosting is only too aware of the struggles of his elders to create opportunities and improve outcomes for Aboriginal people. Shouwn’s mother is a member of the Stolen Generation and through the story of her upbringing and the challenges she faced, he realised early on that you need to grab opportunities in life – and that includes a good education.
Shouwn commenced a Bachelor of Commerce in 2000 and a year into the degree applied to take on a Bachelor of Laws and complete a double degree.
“I thought commerce and law would provide me with a really robust education and help me develop critical thinking which would be a nice fit with the career pathway that I had in mind. So I put my hand up for it and got in … I started the double degree in 2002,” says Shouwn.
During the double degree, Shouwn made a successful application to participate in an Indigenous Cadetship Program with the Crown Solicitor’s Office within the Attorney General’s Department. The cadetship was strongly connected to the law program so he could practically apply what he was learning.
“The cadetship program was very structured and a lot of the placements I did within the Crown were directly related to what I was studying.
“I honestly believe that the cadetship was the difference in me completing the law program.”
At the time he was studying, to practice law in South Australia graduates were required to complete the Bachelor of Laws and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice as well as a practical placement with a registered law firm. In 2006 Shouwn had a couple of electives left of his law degree, he had started the graduate diploma, he was working full-time and raising a young family. Life was hectic.
“It was quite challenging – but I had a very clear goal,” says Shouwn.
Near the end of his cadetship, Shouwn identified an employment opportunity with the Department of Health, as a Senior Project Officer within the Aboriginal Health Workforce Development unit. This role really appealed to Shouwn because it provided an opportunity to work in a very important area. It was a difficult decision to make and would mean, for the time being, moving away from the legal sector.
“My manager at the Crown Solicitor’s said to me, ‘so what do you really want to do? What is the thing that really drives you?’ And I said, ‘this role really interests me’. So he encouraged me to have a crack at it.”
Shouwn still finished his law degree and the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, and in 2009 gained admission as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of South Australia.
Since 2010, Shouwn has been working at the Department of State Development (formerly the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology) as a Principal Consultant. Much of Shouwn’s current role is around policy coordination and strategy development, supporting implementation of the State Government’s policy to improve employment outcomes for Aboriginal people.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of rewarding, challenging work – and there’s still plenty to be done and I’m keen to keep chipping away.
“At the moment I’m doing what I love doing. I get out of bed excited about the day ahead and that’s a really powerful position to be in.”
Another area that Shouwn is passionate about and actively involved in is Reconciliation. He is the Chairperson of Campbelltown Council’s Reconciliation Advisory Committee, a volunteer position that he finds very rewarding.
“I love being involved in the Reconciliation movement because I think that’s where we are going to see generational impact and generational change – but we need to bring all Australians on the Reconciliation journey to be effective.”
In addition to Shouwn’s dedication to improving outcomes for Aboriginal people, Shouwn is also devoted to his family. His eldest son is now 17 and in year 12, and he has twin boys in year 10.
“My kids are certainly at the top of my agenda and particularly now it’s about making sure they make the best possible decisions to give themselves lifelong opportunities. In many ways, it’s doing what my parents did – it’s role modelling and setting strong values around education and work.”
Story by Kelly Brown
Photo by Russell Millard