First Nations employment officer supports career success

30 May 2023
Danessa Willie-White
Danessa Willie-White is passionate about improving employment outcomes for First Nations people

Danessa Willie-White is passionate about improving employment outcomes for First Nations people and is using her position at CQUniversity to do so.

The proud Gimuy Walubara Yidinji woman and an Australia South Sea Islander woman, with family connections to Mer (Murray Island), commenced her role as a First Nations Employment Officer in CQUniversity’s People and Culture Directorate.

Drawing from her experience in employment and business, Danessa said she is proud to be in a position where she can support and empower other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their career goals.

“I have over 30 years of experience working in the Queensland Government and the human services sector, mainly working with vulnerable families and in the employment sectors.

“Through these roles, I worked extensively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, mentoring, and assisting them on their pathway to sustainable employment,” she said.

“I am passionate about my people and ensuring they’re aware of the opportunities afforded to them to strive for better outcomes and a better future for themselves and their families.

“I believe when given the opportunity, our First Nations people excel when they feel of value, not only for their skills and knowledge, but for their capacity to walk two worlds, especially given their strong connection to self and country, culture, customs and belief systems.”

Danessa was employed as a part of the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), demonstrating CQU’s long-term commitment to the education and employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“My role is guided by the RAP and the First Nations Workforce Strategy Framework,” Danessa explained.

“The First Nations Workforce Strategy is a whole-of-university approach aimed to reflect parity across the geographic and demographic catchments of the University’s national footprint.

“My main aim is to reach the national parity rate of a minimum of three per cent employment over the next three years, but I believe we can and should exceed this given we are riding a wave of recovery after the pandemic and employment opportunities are opening up all over the University.

“This will be achieved through targeted recruitment, professional development and retention in all employment categories and levels. This Strategy strives for significant outcomes of social and economic benefits for First Nations trainees, employees, alumni, and communities.”

She advocated for other First Nations professionals to consider a career in the tertiary education sector with diverse employment opportunities across CQU’s campus footprint.

“I am always encouraging different areas and departments within CQUniversity to consider our First Nations alumni for professional, academic or research roles and would like to assist as many First Nations as possible in applying for these roles.

“CQU strives to provide a culturally safe and supportive work environment for its First Nations staff. They also have relevant cultural support mechanisms in place; if people are feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, they can reach out and ask for assistance,” Danessa said.

“I love the practice of inclusion across the university from the Welcome or Acknowledgements to Country, to the cultural sashes worn by the First Nations graduates at our graduation ceremonies.

“I would also like to like to remind these graduates and CQU alumni to update their contact information with the Advancement and Alumni Relations Team. This will ensure they receive information about CQU employment opportunities.”

Having seen the positive experiences and success of CQU graduates first-hand, Danessa said she was inspired to join the University’s diverse global alumni cohort.

“Since I have commenced work at CQU, I have also embarked on enrolling in study myself,” she said.

“Watching the graduation ceremony last year encouraged me to commence my Bachelor of Psychological Science.”

First Nation’s people interested in a career at CQUniversity can contact Danessa via email at or can discuss employment opportunities on (07) 49 309 232.

Danessa and Barb sit together at the CQU Rockhampton North campus Yarning Circle. Danessa wears a denim jacket and Barb wears a pink jumper.
Danessa Willie-White with CQU People and Culture Director Barbara Miller