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Tammy Rasmussen: Empowering First Nations students through education

Indigenous Student Support Officer and TAFE Queensland employee of more than two decades, Tammy Rasmussen, has spent a lifetime championing culturally safe learning environments and great training outcomes for First Nations students.  

Tammy’s career in education commenced in 1999 at the University of Southern Queensland as an assistant to a lecturer specialising in Australian Cultural Studies and tutoring in various subjects.

In 2004, while in a practice teacher position, Tammy delivered Indigenous Studies in one of TAFE Queensland’s original buildings in Hume St, Toowoomba before taking up the role of Indigenous Student Support Officer for the organisation.

Tammy then had the opportunity to transition to Queensland Education, rolling out Indigenous competency units to all Queensland Government staff and non-Government staff state-wide.

Her career turning full circle, Tammy re-joined the TAFE Queensland team in 2020, accepting a role within the student support services team.

“I connect with, and support, our First Nations students to achieve their study and career goals,” explained Tammy.

“On a day-to-day basis that could involve guiding students with their course work, liaising with other government and community organisations to connect our students to additional support services, or to providing mentorship for TAFE Queensland’s business and ICT trainees.”

“Recently we’ve had a group of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care students at all levels from Certificate III to Diploma travel from various locations across the state to complete a week-long clinical training block at the Toowoomba campus’s health facilities.”

“I help these student with their accommodation and travel requirements and check-in to see how they’re travelling with their studies.”

“While I’m based at the Toowoomba campus, my role extends throughout the 13 campuses in South West Queensland, and for some courses I have students across the whole state.”

Furthermore, Tammy networks with a number of community organisations, working in partnership to gain practical support for students when it’s needed and to achieve great training outcomes.

“Recently, I had a student, who is a mother of 3, and was considering studying at TAFE Queensland but was lacking the confidence to get started,” Tammy said.

“But we worked together with a team member from the Australian Government Initiative, Parents Next, to give her the support she needed to complete her course and she is now enrolled a Diploma of Child, Youth and Family Intervention.”

“To see the change in her – from sitting in my office doubting herself to now, equipped with the confidence and skills to pursue a career in community services, has been wonderful.”

Tammy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology, Archaeology and History from the University of Southern Queensland, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education and a Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAE40122).

She recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Education (multicultural) and combines her cultural knowledge and teaching experience to host cultural awareness sessions at TAFE Queensland.

“Another important aspect of my role involves delivering cultural awareness training to new students. I cover what culture is and how it differs between language groups,” explained Tammy.

“These sessions have been designed to raise people’s awareness of the influences and impacts of culture on how we do things.”

“Recently, I’ve been working closely with Adam and Sue from Toowoomba’s ‘Adapt’ organisation, for community services students to show how they can get involved in various community program and organisations.”

“The Adapt program is designed to help them navigate the challenges of work, and study life, and balancing their responsibilities in-community,” added Tammy.

In addition to working closely with Parents Next, Adapt and Mylestones Employment, Tammy consults with a wide network of community organisations.

“I attend a Yarning Circle with Toowoomba community representatives and leaders regularly and it provides a valuable opportunity to discuss current issues and to work together.”

Not limited to supporting students and connecting with community, Tammy’s role also involves mentoring a number of TAFE Queensland employees.

“It’s been great to see our organisation employ four young First Nations trainees – Rose, Maddy, Jack and Dannii in the areas of information technology, customer service and student support services.”

“Rose, Maddy, Jack and Dannii are learning the ropes quickly and are becoming valued members of staff with a bright future ahead,” said Tammy.

Pictured above from left to right: TAFE Queensland ICT Service Delivery Trainee Dannii McPherson, TAFE Queensland Indigenous Student Support Officer Tammy Rasmussen and TAFE Queensland Business Administration Trainee, Jack Kemp.