Out of the workforce for 13 years, Diana Smith says she found the job seeking process alien and intimidating, particularly for an indigenous woman.

But since approaching the specialised Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) in Glebe seven months ago, the mother-of-two has not looked back.

Ms Smith now works for multi-national company PriceWaterhouseCoopers, maintaining kitchenettes on 15 floors of the accounting firm’s CBD building.

She says she could not have made the transition without the one-on-one support she received from Glebe’s AES office manager, Jamie Hardy.

Ms Smith said she was inspired to seek help after hearing Mr Hardy speak at her graduation ceremony for an industry-recognised hospitality qualification.

‘It had been so long since my last job interview, I had forgotten what the employment process was like,’ she said.

‘The AES helped me to prepare my resume and coached me on the interview process, they took me shopping for interview and work clothes and drove me to both interviews I had with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in the city.’

A not-for-profit organisation managed and operated by Aboriginal people, the AES is achieving positive results for local indigenous people wanting to make a change in their lives.

Danny Lester, chief executive of the AES, puts success down to an employment model that recognises the significant barriers faced by Aboriginal people in gaining and sustaining employment.

‘To do it we sit down with each of our clients and really listen to them and find out what they want to do and why they have had difficulties with employment in the past.

‘Once we place them into jobs, we continue our mentoring process until they feel confident about going it alone.’

The AES has had an office in Glebe since 2005 and has developed strong relationships with corporate partners as well as local businesses in the community.

‘We build relationships that give employers a better understanding of Aboriginal people,’ Mr Lester said.

– Linda Daniele

*This article was first published in City Hub, June 16, 2008 and City News, June 21, 2008.