Trent Wingard grew up learning from his grandmother Barbara Wingard, through stories that empowered communities and made Aboriginal people stronger.

It was through this bond that Trent learned to embrace his identity as a fair skin Ngarrindjeri, Boandik and Kaurna man.

‘’I am very light skinned compared to Dad and my brother and there were times when it really got to me,’’ he said.

‘’I would have long conversations with Grandma about it and she would say, ‘It doesn’t matter how much milk you put in a cup of tea, it is still a cup of tea’.

‘’She taught me, as long as I am proud of who I am, and I know who I am inside, that’s what matters.’’

The first Aboriginal trained health worker in South Australia, Barbara devoted her life to helping others strengthen their cultural identity through narrative therapy and storytelling.

‘’Growing up, I was lucky enough to have Grandma and my great grandma, Ivy Owen Pinkie; she was fair skin as well, and part of the Stolen Generation,’’ Trent said.

‘’They’d sit us all down with Dad and speak about culture; where we are from, our totems and our dreaming stories.

‘’Not everyone has had that. I’m still learning every day about my culture and family connections.

‘’Speaking with Elders, I know they’re tired of forever telling their stories and having to relive their trauma. It takes a toll on them.

‘’I want to empower the younger generation to continue to ask questions about family and connections because everyone is on their own journey.’’

This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme, Be a Voice for Generations, urges all Australians to use their power, their words and their actions to create a better, more just Australia for everyone.

The theme resonates with Trent, who was recently appointed Senior Aboriginal Workforce Coordinator at Centacare.

He brings to the role a strong sense of social justice, a decade of experience in Aboriginal health, promotion, education, advocacy and strategy, and a passion for creating career pathways for young Aboriginal people.

‘’I was lucky because I had my career pathway paved out for me from an early age, but other young people might not have their family working in Aboriginal health or Aboriginal roles,’’ he said,

”So it’s about how we can expose them to career pathways in Aboriginal organisations, but also in mainstream positions.

”That’s why I’m passionate about coming to Centacare, so that we can get more people thinking that this is a place for Aboriginal people and a culturally safe environment that invests in their story too.’’

Trent will deliver a new program that aims to empower, support and grow the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.

‘’The program is committed to bringing cultural knowledge, experience, and perspectives into everything we do,’’ he said.

‘’By working in partnership with local Aboriginal communities and other organisations, we can create a supportive and inclusive environment at Centacare that enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to thrive.‘’

Previously, Trent was Aboriginal Health Workforce Coordinator at Aboriginal Health Council of SA, where his focus was on exploring career pathways that champion the skills and experience of Aboriginal health workers and practitioners.

He also developed and delivered a school-based anti-smoking program throughout regional and remote South Australia.

‘’The last thing Grandma told me was ‘continue to make a difference’,’’ said Trent, who is the brother of Hawthorn forward, Chad Wingard.

‘’It took me a lot of years to prove myself and earn the respect in Aboriginal communities throughout South Australia, but I was very fortunate to have her as a strong advocate.

‘’I’m passionate about how I can use the opportunities I’ve had to help others who haven’t been so fortunate to dream big, and then build systems that support them to achieve those big dreams.’’