In addition to meeting her husband during the travelling fellowship she won, she also achieved her dream of owning a business.
The journey to success
Annette is a proud Taungurung woman of the eastern Kulin nation. From an early age, she had a keen interest in Aboriginal early childhood education and care, plus a strong sense of social justice.
After working as a nanny, Annette completed an Aboriginal Childcare course at Prahran TAFE. She then achieved her Associate Diploma of Social Science in Childcare from Swinburne University's Prahran Campus. At the time, Annette's teachers nominated her for the Victorian Training Award.
Today, she describes her journey as 'a fabulous experience of a path I was destined to walk on.'
Annette says her travelling fellowship gave her the opportunity to study issues that she was passionate about.
In Canada and the US I was able to visit First Nations peoples, study anti-bias curricula and examine early childcare programs. In Sweden, I did a summer course in the government's early childhood policies. In London, I studied an anti-racist program.
I felt so fortunate to have won the award, as I would never have been able to have these experiences otherwise.
Fulfilling a dream
Back home, Annette worked at the Yappera Children's Service in Thornbury. She then became a Koorie Field Officer with the Department of Human Services. In 2001, Annette achieved her dream of founding her own business – Yarn Strong Sista (Speak with Strength Women).
Today, Yarn Strong Sista employs 9 staff and is nationally recognised for its innovative and creative approaches to Aboriginal early childcare and education. It offers professional development for early childcare educators, storytelling and children's arts workshops. Yarn Strong Sista also provides First Nations-designed resources, educational tools and toys.
As Creative Arts Director, Annette oversees running the business and the organisation's programs and resources development. She is also an accomplished illustrator and has illustrated 3 children's books written by Yorta Yorta Academic Woman, Dr Sue Lopez-Atkinson.
Looking back on her experience, Annette says 'the rewards of being a VTA winner were just amazing.'
I got to observe, learn, share experiences and expertise on Aboriginal education in different places in the world, and take what I learnt and incorporate it into the early childhood programs and Aboriginal community in Melbourne.
Being able to make a difference in this way and advance understanding of First Nations peoples has been enormously important to me.
And along the way I got to meet my life partner – what a lovely bonus!
Reviewed 19 May 2023