Sarah makes an impact

Through her recovery from addiction and mental illness, Sarah reconnected with her culture and decided she wanted to help others. Now she’s flying high.

When Sarah Thorne is on a plane travelling across the big red desert in the centre of Australia, she often looks out of the window and pinches herself.

A few years back, there’s no way she could have foreseen where she’d be today – in a national project manager role working with her First Nations Mob making a real difference in their lives.

“If you’d told me that five years ago, I would have laughed at you,” she says.

“There was a point in my life where I was in a pretty bad way. I was in a really dark place.”

After high school, Sarah studied Chisholm’s Diploma of Visual Arts.

She worked in graphic design and marketing for a while, in addition to doing retail work.

Sarah eventually decided to have a career change and enrolled in Chisholm’s Bachelor of Community Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD), followed by the Graduate Certificate in Family Violence.

“I’ve lived a very colourful life, with lived experience of mental health and AOD specifically,” she says. “That’s probably what led me to choose the course.”

Sarah says she couldn’t speak more highly of her experience at Chisholm.

“The knowledge and the lived experience that the teachers had in the sector was just incredible,” she says.

“That was one of the greatest opportunities I had, was to learn under people who have done some pretty cool things in the sector. I was really inspired by that.”

Sarah did placement at Salvation Army START Community, an AOD day program.

Not long after that, she got a job at headspace Dandenong as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island youth access worker.

After just six months, Sarah was offered a position with headspace National as national project manager of outreach and relationships.

“As an Aboriginal woman, I wasn’t that connected in my younger life to my culture,” says Sarah, who is a proud Wiradjuri/Ngunnawal woman.

“Through my recovery, I connected with my culture and decided I wanted to be able to help other people in the same position as me.”

Sarah’s work is exciting and rewarding.

At the time of being interviewed, she had just spent 14 hours and three flights getting to the tiny town of Kununurra in Western Australia to work with the local First Nations young people.

The following week, she was due to head to Mutitjulu at the foothills of Uluru to help open a new service provision for First Nations people.

“It’s pretty incredible what I get to do,” says Sarah.

“I work with the headspace centre network, which has over 156 centres across the country, and support them with their First Nations community connections.

“I love it, I get to see some of the most incredible places, which you would never see any other way.”

Sarah is an exceptional example of what can be achieved with determination and hard work.

For her efforts, she was named Koorie Student of the Year at the 2023 Chisholm Education Awards.

Sarah is a proud LGBTIQA+ queer ally and a passionate activist for pride rights, especially for Rainbow Mob. When she’s not busy working, you’ll find her on adventures with her two cavoodles.

“It’s been hard work and it’s taken having a really supportive network,” says Sarah. “I’m a lucky one. I have a family who never let me go and never backed down on sticking by me.

“But now I’m in a position where I couldn’t be happier. I get up every day and I’m so excited to go to work.”