For many UNSW Sydney students, the idea of their culture, tradition, who they are, and their professional career, is one and the same as they progress through life.
According to UNSW Business School graduate Dylan Booth, for many Indigenous people it isn’t as simple as that.
“Walking in two worlds – it’s a concept that I’m sure everyone has heard. It’s the idea that as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we often live in two distinctly different worlds: that of our professional careers and that of our culture,” Mr Booth says.
Mr Booth is a proud Kamilaroi man, UNSW Sydney alumnus and a consultant in professional services firm EY’s Indigenous Sector Practice and Transaction Advisory Services.
His relationship with UNSW Business School began in 2012 as he was getting ready to sit his Higher School Certificate and make a decision about his future.
“My careers advisor at school set up a meeting with Nura Gili, the Indigenous Programs Unit at UNSW. Next thing I knew I was invited to the inaugural UNSW Business School Indigenous Accounting forum.”
The forum was an initiative of Rebecca Harcourt, Program Manager Indigenous Business Education at UNSW Business School.
“I attended the forum, met industry leaders, UNSW staff and current students and that was it, I was sold,” Mr Booth says.
“I couldn’t believe that I had been accepted to study at one of Australia’s leading business schools. I was excited to start the next chapter of my life.”
The journey of navigating the two overlapped worlds had well and truly begun. Living away from home for the first time and adjusting to university life was challenging. The UNSW Business School graduate says the hardest part was being away from his family.
Undeterred, however, he completed internships at AMP Capital NSW Procurement and Allens-Linklaters, and in 2016 he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in International Business and Business Law.
“I was the first person in my family to finish year 12, go to university and get a degree,” he says. “I’m proud to say that my sister Ariel is currently studying at the UNSW Business School, and my other siblings, Brodie and CJ, have ambitions to do the same. I am immensely proud of them.”
After graduating, Mr Booth joined one of the Big Four at KPMG, and although it was a steep learning curve, it is here where he “fell in love with consulting”.
'Choice is something that too few Indigenous people have. This is something that I am determined to change.'
“I decided to leave KPMG after my grad year, I did so to take up my current role at EY and pursue what I am passionate about – improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In the Indigenous Sector Practice we work with and for our clients to do exactly that.”
He relishes the opportunity to work directly with the Indigenous community and address equality issues at a national level. It was a major factor in his decision to leave KPMG.
Mr Booth has worked on projects that focus on improving outcomes for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care and supporting Aboriginal families, and designed policy frameworks for state government agencies to increase Indigenous participation in procurement, employment and community development.
His latest project aims to ensure that every Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person living with a disability across the country has access to the essential medical services they need.
“I feel as though I have a cultural obligation to do what I can,” he says.
“During my career I’ve come to understand that it’s not always what you can gain but rather what you endeavour to give back that’s important. And always being mindful of leaving whatever you do, in better shape than when you found it.”
Being a graduate from one of the most prestigious business schools in Australia is a stepping stone, he says.
“Through education, I have the privilege of choice. The choice to charter my life how I want.
“Choice is something that too few Indigenous people have. This is something that I am determined to change. I am motivated to change the landscape of Indigenous affairs in this country, one way or another.”
The UNSW alumnus attributes his success to the hard work done by his Elders.
“I am a firm believer that I am here because I am standing on the shoulders of the giants who have come before me,” he says. “The shoulders of our old people. The shoulders of those who fought diligently to ensure we have the opportunities that they did not. Those who showed us how to walk in two worlds.
“Walking in two worlds has, and will always be a challenge. It means that we are constantly surrounded by a sea of white – the impact of which is so profound, that it’s incredibly difficult to articulate in a few words.”