“Remember: Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”
Kaya Farrell encouraged Girls Academy students to keep an open mind and be open to possibilities because you never know where they might take you.
The proud Noongar/Yamatji woman was speaking at a career information session at Swan View Girls Academy, which was also attended by students from Girrawheen, Kiara and Clontarf Academies.
Raised by strong women, Kaya originally wanted to be a lawyer. “I remember watching (TV legal dramas) Ally McBeal and The Practice and I remember thinking ‘I could do that’. Seems like a flashy sort of job and I like to win an argument. I was stubborn and determined from an early age.”
But life had other plans. “Through my childhood and teen years I faced some challenges, with having domestic violence, substance abuse and welfare dependency all around me,” she told the girls. “Unfortunately, this was a product of intergenerational trauma caused through the Stolen Generations, which my nana was part of.”
Despite suffering anxiety in her late teens, Kaya said she remained ambitious and was determined to “be something”. When she didn’t get the score she needed for law school, she enrolled in the Aboriginal orientation course at the University of WA, followed by the pre-law summer course.
Then at the end of her first year of law, she fell pregnant with her son, who is now 12. Kaya said she had every intention of returning to her studies, but things changed when the natural organiser started working at INPEX as a team assistant in the logistics department.
Now, as aviation operations coordinator, Kaya is in charge of managing helicopter schedules with the INPEX contractor based in the Kimberley, which transports the FIFO workforce to offshore facilities.
“I never thought I would find aviation so interesting,” she said. “I am now studying my Bachelor of Aviation with a major in international business and taking flight lessons down at Jandakot with Royal Aero Club.”
Dianne Deegan is another woman breaking barriers and shattering stereotypes at INPEX, a journey that began with her mother’s desire to see her children get a good education.
Born in Perth but raised in Port Hedland, Dianne went away to board in Perth when she started high school. “It was hard being away from family and there were times when I just wanted to give up and go home but Mum drummed into us that education is the most important tool and knowledge is power.”
A Nyikena descendant from the West Kimberley, Dianne was determined to finish Year 12 at St Norbett’s College even if she didn’t know what her next step would be.
As the offshore service technician told students, the key is to set goals, even if they are short-term ones, like finishing your assignments or studying for your exams.
This approach has taken the mother of two in many different directions, including becoming the first female Indigenous open crane operator in Australia in 2012.
“In the beginning being the only woman in the crew wasn’t easy … there were a couple of fellas who believed that a woman did not belong in the crane and rigging industry,” she told the girls. “I didn’t let that stop me, because I had set myself another goal. I wanted to take these new skills and get a job offshore.”
After seven years in mining, Dianne left Port Hedland for Darwin, where she worked as a crane operator helping to build INPEX’s onshore facility. As that drew to an end, an opportunity came up through the company’s Solid Pathways program to train as an offshore service technician. Her dream was about to be realised, winning the position over almost 200 other applicants.
“The oil and gas industry is probably the hardest industry to get into but programs like Solid Pathways help bridge the gap,” she says.
Dianne told the girls not to be held back by the expectations of others. “If you want a career in a male-dominated industry, go ahead, give it a go! If you like it, stay and be the best you can be, and if you don’t, at least you gave it a go, and find another path to go down. The choices are endless.”
She encouraged the girls to make the most of the opportunities Girls Academy provides and to be prepared to put in the hard work to reap the rewards. “Ask for help if you need it,” she said. “Accept that it’s not all easy sailing and try new things.”
Kaya agreed that it was important not to plan every inch of your life. “Change is good, I try to diversify, learning new things all the time,” she said. “Draw inspiration and role models from every aspect of your life to guide you at all its different stages.”
And as you find your way, don’t forget to look out for one another and lift each other up.