Brooke O’Donnell lives in Perth and describes herself as a problem-solver who is undeterred by obstacles when pursuing her goals and dreams, and someone who likes to lead by example. She is also the 2020 recipient of the AGSM Alumni Community Scholarship, which is designed for talented and emerging leaders working in the not-for-profit sector who are dedicated to developing strong communities.

Brooke works as an Aboriginal Principal Project Officer managing Aboriginal projects within the Department of Communities. She enjoys working with Aboriginal elders and leaders to develop more effective relationships within regions near Perth and works to support their needs in a way that gives them the ability to make changes.

Currently, she manages a team of community youth officers who work with up to 10 young people, supporting them holistically on issues such as working through family relationships, domestic violence, alcohol and drug use and mental health.

“We’re doing a lot of work with our Department of Treasury model and through social impact assessments, analysing how young people and their families are improving while in the program and also looking at the results once they exit the program. The results are showing that spending money in the early stages of a young person’s life makes a big difference. Fewer people are reoffending, and mental health outcomes are better,” Brooke said.

While Brooke’s focus has always been on making a difference in the community, she felt earning an MBA was integral to her own learning and development goals and was accepted into the MBAX program at AGSM @ UNSW Business School.

“It wasn’t just about getting an MBA,” Brooke said, “it was also about making sure the program was right for me. The feedback I heard from people who studied at AGSM was nothing but positive and the focus on social impact stood out to me.”

However, it was the AGSM Alumni Community Scholarship that covers full tuition fees that made her AGSM dream possible.

“I’m extremely grateful that I’ve been offered the scholarship and I feel fortunate and very humbled that I was selected,” she said. “I am in another state and the fact that AGSM took a chance on someone like me who is halfway across the countryside – that made me feel really good.”

In addition to completing her MBA next year, Brooke would like to secure a role in an Aboriginal Community Control Organisation (ACCO) as a CEO, which is an incorporated Aboriginal organisation, initiated, based in and governed by, the local Aboriginal community to deliver holistic and culturally appropriate services to the Aboriginal community that controls it.

Brooke explains, “Far too often, many of our agencies in Western Australia are not led by an Aboriginal person, but to really be able to build community understanding and awareness, I think having Aboriginal leaders and an Aboriginal person at the top is important. Then you can say, ‘Look, I’ve done this, and I’ve overcome and understand obstacles that you’re going through, so you can too.’”

“I want the next generation of Aboriginal people to pursue their dreams and goals too,” she said.

Brooke is also interested in running for a position within state or federal government. She would like to run for office so that she can elevate issues such as education, family and domestic violence, justice, mental health and closing the gap.

When asked about advice for future AGSM students she said, “It’s really about considering all options. My advice is not to worry if it is the quickest way of getting to your destination because quickest doesn’t necessarily mean that it is any better than the path that takes three, five or ten years.”

“It will happen if you keep exploring your options,” Brooke said, “it will all work out.”

To find out more about AGSM MBA Scholarships, click here.

To find out more about the MBAX programs, click here.