Aleisha Johnson has overcome family breakdown, addiction, domestic violence and even an upheaval in her cultural identity to turn her life around, now drawing on her own lived experience and newly developed skills to provide support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
The thirty-eight year-old mother-of-three said she was inspired to pursue a career in community services while ministering through her church, after coming across a number of struggling families. But it is her own personal journey that opened her eyes to just how much a difficult childhood can affect a person’s path.
“My goal was to complete the diploma and work in child protection when I started out. I had seen how the systems had failed my family, and I wanted to make a difference,” Aleisha said.
“I have faced many challenges, from addiction, domestic violence, anxiety and depression, to family court battles, resistance in employment and my own pride, but I am now five years sober and determined to pursue the next avenue of my life.”
After spending her whole working life in pharmacy, Aleisha decided to return to study through TAFE Queensland in 2018 so she could continue to work while learning at her own pace.
It was during her Diploma of Child, Youth and Family Intervention (CHC50313) studies that Aleisha found out she is Indigenous, after speaking with family members that were aware of her heritage.
The discovery initially challenged Aleisha as most of her family was unwilling to accept this part of their history, and she was unsure of how to reconcile her cultural identity with her faith.
“When I learnt I was Indigenous, I had to weigh up what that meant as a Christian, which was difficult. I am thankful that I am able to navigate this more easily now,” Aleisha said.
“I recognised the similarities in Christianity and Indigenous culture, then as I began to discover more about the culture, I realised why I feel the things I do. Navigating that in the modern world can be very difficult because the connection to land, sea and spirit shapes the way we are, if we understand it properly.”
However, the discovery also opened the door for her to learn about her culture while giving back to her community as a primary school Community Education Counsellor.
“I work in a role where Indigenous roots are extremely important, so being white in colour and not being as well-versed in the culture was challenging,” Aleisha said.
“But I have used the skills I have learnt over these years to put the principals and frameworks in place – combined with culture – to work with 110 Indigenous children and their families to improve their educational outcomes."
“The most amazing experience would have to be building relationships with the high risk students, who have difficulty engaging in anything and seeing the improvement. Sometimes all it takes is just one person that cares enough to reach out."
“It is very rewarding knowing that I am making a difference as I watch the children increase their coping skills and feel more comfortable within the classroom and school environment.”
Now, after two-and-a-half years of hard work and determination, Aleisha has graduated and is continuing her studies, with the goal of better serving her community through her faith.
“My journey through this was a roller coaster as I had many external factors putting pressure on my studies; however by the grace of God I was able to complete them,” Aleisha said.
“After building confidence in the workplace with the skills I have learnt, I am hoping that I can continue what I am doing for now and in the future work for an organisation that supports children, their families and the wider community.”