Full Circle: From a City Bank to Aboriginal Health

When 16-year-old Henrietta Ofa bid farewell to her hometown of Nhulunbuy to complete high school in Brisbane, she had no idea she would return years later to give back to the community who raised her. Several years working at a city bank taught Henrietta resilience – but at the cost of her emotional and mental wellbeing. Moving home to join Miwatj in Business Support, Henrietta says she’s finally found a role in which she can empower others – but one that makes her feel valued too.

Henrietta’s calling

As the Business Support Officer at Miwatj, Henrietta organises patient bookings, travel plans and incentive programs, orders supplies and lends a hand at reception.

“When patients come in, I’m all eyes and ears. Whether it’s about the community, the clinic or the people who live here – I’m always listening and learning. The patients challenge me and open my eyes to look at things in a different perspective. That’s what I like the most about working here. When I think about what Miwatj offers the community… I’m proud to be a part of this.”

Henrietta hasn’t always had roles where she felt this connected. She shares why, for the first time in a long time, she feels she’s where she’s meant to be.

A family affair

Born in Camperdown NSW, Henrietta and her family moved to Nhulunbuy when she was six years old.

“My dad came to visit family in Nhulunbuy and absolutely loved it here. Dad applied to work for the community store, and then with YBE (Yolngu Business Enterprise). However, due to health reasons he had to resign from YBE. Years later, both my parents worked at the Yirrkala clinic. When Miwatj took over, Mum decided to continue to work with the government and Dad stayed with Miwatj. To this day, Dad works as a driver in Yirrkala.”

At the start of grade eleven, Henrietta moved to Brisbane for her final years of high school. After graduating, she enrolled at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, studying a double business degree in commerce and business.

After her first year, Henrietta accepted casual work in the mailroom of a major bank. After hearing stories of friends who struggled to find work after graduating, Henrietta grabbed the opportunity.

Dedicated but overlooked

“I started from the bottom and worked my way up over seven years. After a year with the bank, I was offered permanency and went from the mail room to the registrations team, to settlements and then to home loans and credit for private and high-profile clients. At first, I was working and studying full time, but this became too much as I progressed. I decided to defer my studies and focus on building my experience.”

As Henrietta climbed the ladder at the bank, she found it increasingly demanding – mentally and emotionally.

“I’m quite reserved but I work very hard. I wasn’t good at selling myself like others at the bank, so I was often overlooked. Yet, tasks would always fall back on me as I was reliable. I was worn out and unhappy – and it was having an impact on my relationship and on others around me.”

A one-way ticket to Nhulunbuy

In late 2018, yearning for a change of scenery, Henrietta’s husband applied for a position with Nhulunbuy’s largest freight company, SeaSwift. Successful in his application, the couple packed up and relocated to in Nhulunbuy by Christmas.

“I was applying for work like crazy – I needed to stay in East Arnhem Land for my family. But this time was also an opportunity to sit down and consider what I really wanted. I had an epiphany; I didn’t want to specialise in finance. I dropped my finance major and took up a major in HR. Out of all my applications, the only organisation to contact me was Miwatj for a position as the Business Support for Yirrkala. I haven’t looked back since.”

Henrietta says she’s the happiest she’s been in a long time, and feels privileged to give back to the community who raised her.

“I feel so fortunate to work for Miwatj. I count my blessings. Being here is my way of giving back to the community who gave me so much. If there’s some way I can have a positive impact on someone’s life, I know I’ve done my job. I’m happy. This is my calling – I needed to be here.”

 

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