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Leadership and revolution inspire a rewarding career


Lee Adendorff
10 July 2019

Southern Cross graduate Tennyson Strong grew up in a small Indigenous community in Armidale. He belongs to two distinct peoples - the Jukembal people on the New England Slopes, and the Gumbanggirri people of the mid-north coast.

His parents, like all Aboriginal people in Australia, were only granted the right to vote in 1962. Tennyson grew up with a deep awareness of the importance of history and the legacy of Aboriginal activists who had been instrumental in this seismic political and cultural shift. This awareness evolved into a fascination with leadership in times of revolution.

Pioneering sportsman and Aboriginal rights advocate The Honourable Sir Pastor Douglas Nicholls has been a constant inspiration. “He’s one of the reasons we have rights as Aboriginal people in Australia. He was a highly educated man and he wasn’t afraid to be himself. He climbed the ladder of success and we have been able to build on that sacrifice that he laid,” says Tennyson.

The Southern Cross Bachelor of Indigenous Studies resonated strongly with his love of history and desire to know more about his own history.

“We don’t get a lot of exposure to Indigenous history in this country. When I found out how many great people had gone before us, there was no excuse to not do the degree,” says Tennyson. It was a decision that changed his life.

“The opportunities were so diverse, both during and after the degree. The door was wide open to go into child protection, out-of-home care, family support or even education, paralegal work and business studies.”

Tennyson majored in trauma and healing, a specialisation that has seen him develop a career in child protection and family support.

“The families that I deal with have a high level of complex needs and trauma-based experiences through their lives. You need to be able to work with people and have compassion and vision to help people get to the next stage of their lives”.

 “It’s very satisfying work. I’m doing something different every single day. You can be there for breakfast, for lunch or for dinner. I really believe you see a family’s potential at the dinner table, that’s when their personalities come alive.”

Tennyson is currently completing postgraduate qualifications in psychology and business. “My dream is to be a qualified psychologist. Psychology holds a lot of power in the communities where I grew up in terms of social services, I want to have that knowledge and be able to advocate for my people on that level. I am studying business also to learn more about the way the world works. I think they are a good combination for the future,” he says.

Studying Indigenous Knowledge at Southern Cross University