Student Stories: How Shane Charles found his calling in Community services

Jul 7, 2024

Know the saying, ‘65,000 years strong’?

This couldn’t be truer of Shane Charles, a proud Yorta Yorta man whose determination and resilience have shaped his path as a Community Services student at VACCHO.

We spoke with Shane this NAIDOC Week about his story so far – and what being Blak, Loud and Proud means to him.

The road to Community service
Shane didn’t start out dreaming of a career in Aboriginal community services. Having left school at Year 8, he thought education was off the cards.

But this month, he’s graduating from VACCHO’s Registered Training Organisation’s nationally accredited Diploma of Community Services, prouder than ever.

‘I never thought in a million years I’d be sitting here with a diploma,’ he says. ‘But here I am.’

Driven by passion – and purpose
Shane’s passion for Aboriginal community service, particularly in mental health and Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD), is deeply personal.

‘I’ve been through the system and came out the other side, which is very empowering for me,’ Shane says. And it’s these experiences that drive his desire to support others – and to study.

Starting his study at VACCHO in 2022, it’s taken some time to get to where he is today. But Shane’s perseverance has paid off.

Today, he helps run Dardi Munwurrro’s Men’s Healing and Behavioural Change Program – a program he once participated in as a client.

‘I did their NJP program, an 18-month residential behaviour change program. Three years later, they offered me a position,’ he recounts.

‘I want to be someone that I needed when I was going through hard times. It’s a way I can give back to my community and help show these men that there’s a different way.’

Embracing the learning curve
Despite the challenges along the way, Shane views his study experience as a significant learning curve. Traveling from Echuca to Melbourne for classes has been an adjustment, but one he welcomes.

‘I love coming down for the week, meeting new Mob and seeing all the differences out here,’ he says. ‘I feel like a sponge, soaking all this experience up.’

Shane appreciates the support from VACCHO, which covers his travel and accommodation expenses.

‘I honestly don’t think that I would have been able to complete this Diploma if it was not for VACCHO. It’s made this all possible.’

Giving back and looking forward
With so much already achieved, it could be easy for Shane to sit back and take a breather. But that’s not his style. He plans to continue his work with the men’s group – and further his education.

‘I want to do more mental health training to really hone my skills,’ he says. And with an enrolment in VACCHO’s Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs starting in mid-August, Shane’s not wasting a minute.

‘Once my studies are done, I’ll be overqualified for whatever I choose to do,’ he says confidently.

Blak, Loud and Proud
Reflecting on the NAIDOC theme, “Black, Loud and Proud,” Shane has as a simple – yet profound – reflection.

‘For me, it’s about being connected to yourself, to your family, to your Community and to the Spirit.’ For Shane, connection is the essence of strength and resilience.

When asked for his advice to other Mob considering studying, Shane encourages, ‘don’t be afraid to be counted. Have a crack. Having this piece of paper is going to open doors for me – it basically will change my life. And it could change yours, too.’

A word from VACCHO’s Education and Training Unit (ETU)
Shane’s story is reminder that our unique lived-experience as Aboriginal people is not a deterrent when taking up opportunities – but instead our lived-experience propels us forward. It connects us to each other.

At the ETU, we’ll always meet you where you are at. If you’re ready learn and make a difference for yourself and your community, you’re welcome here.

We’ll support your learning journey – every step of the way. And thanks to the VACCHO ETU Aboriginal Student Mentor Model, established in 2022, you can access tailored, wrap-around support to remove any barriers to attending classes, maintaining assessments and moving successfully through your qualification. 

Our Mentors are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people who bring Cultural and Community connection to the learning environment – and provide students with a sense of belonging and connection.

Our Model is a centred on kinship and is enhanced by our Aboriginal Student Mentors unique lived experience – recognising the importance Aboriginal ways of learning, being and doing. 

We are so proud of Shane and all his peers that walked this journey! It is a privilege to share this space with our students. Congratulations to Shane and his fellow graduates Damaar (Njernda), Taylor (Djirra), Will (DDACL) and Madilyn for completing their studies.


Inspired by Shane’s story and eager to pursue a career in community service?

Learn more about VACCHO’s nationally accredited courses and how you can make a difference in Community.

Media enquiries

For further media enquiries please email or contact our media unit on (03) 9411 9411.


VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.