Possum is making and shaping the Northwest!


Cheryl ‘Possum’ Swinton has received a prestigious award from the Faculty of Medicine at Sydney University. Photo TWH

“I was blown away when I heard that I had won the Maker and Shaper award,” Possum said.

“I had no idea that my colleagues had nominated me, so upon getting the news, I was humbled.”

Last week, the University of Sydney awarded their Faculty of Medicine and Health Maker and Shaper Award, which celebrates the achievements of professional and academic staff across the faculty, to Bourke’s own Cheryl ‘Possum’ Swinton for her work as Project Officer at the Northwest Academic Centre.

“I guess it means that my team and myself are doing a good job,” she said.

“But to me, the job is easy because I enjoy what I do and I love people, and these young students who come out here are so easy to work with and are keen to learn about our communities, and because I am passionate about Bourke and the North West, I want them to enjoy their time out here, so to me, I don’t feel like I am doing anything elaborate or fantastic, I am just doing what I love to do.”

As Project Officer, Possum looks after any student that comes out to do a placement in the Northwest, whether it be in Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Walgett, Goodooga, or Lightning Ridge.

“I set up cultural awareness sessions for the students on their first day,” she said, “so they understand how to work with Aboriginal people in smaller communities and how different the communities can be from the city.

“When students come to Bourke, I take them across to the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum for a tour with Bradley Hardy and in the afternoon, I have Victor Bartley come in to talk to the students.”

Possum said that the key to getting these students to relocate permanently is showing them that there is more to the experience than work.

“Yes, we want them to enjoy their role,” she said, “but we want them to know that they can live in the communities, we want them to see that they are not as bad as the news sometimes makes them out to be, and that it is an excellent place to live.

“One of the ways I do this is by taking them to Breakfast Club.

“I found that there were so many people who had relocated to Bourke and didn’t know anyone, so I invited them to come along to our Breakfast Club, which is just a weekly breakfast at the Oxford Hotel every Saturday morning, where the students get to meet and socialise, and that makes my job easier because the students get to make friends and form a little community where they can go out on the town and to events, and they don’t feel like total strangers.”

In Possum’s four years with Northwest Academic Centre, she has had four students relocate permanently.

“National Parks now employ Jessica Ellis,” she said, “and she brought her partner out with her, who is currently working as a teacher at Bourke High School.


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