Leading reconciliation: Erin's journey of courage, trust and resilience
“My father taught me from a very young age “you are better than no-one and no-one is better than you”. I think if this is the lens that you apply in life from a small child, then it polarises in many instances the gaps in equality and injustice in Australia.”
Meet Erin Woolford, a Kuyani-Arrernte woman, leading ourReconciliation Program aimed at bridging the inequalities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all Australians, within our firm's sphere of influence.
An advocate for social justice, Erin’s passion to work in Aboriginal affairs was inspired at an early age by strong role models, right from her parents, older sister and grandmothers, sparking her innate yearning to create meaningful change and live with courage, resilience and honesty.
She left school before completing Year 12 because “the learning style didn’t work for me and I found the education system was inflexible.”
Over the years, she worked through adversity and found creative ways to reinvent herself, while encountering varying scales of discrimination and racism.
“I would often get “You look Italian” and I would say, “Actually, I’m Aboriginal”, only to get a response of “Oh well don’t worry, you don’t look like one”. Even today I cringe at these assumptions. It’s a compelling reminder to me of how far we still have to go in Australia in terms of race relations, which is one of the fundamental pillars of reconciliation.”
Every time she encountered a roadblock, her father’s wisdom inspired her to return to her starting point and stay true to her values. Trust is integral to everything she does and is what sparked her interest to work at PwC Australia. She chanced upon a job ad to lead the co-design of the firm’s first Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), a cause incredibly close to her heart.
“Reading the firm’s core purpose of building trust in society, acting with integrity, making a difference - all of this resonated deeply with me. It meant I could bring all of me, my passions and values to create change.”
Having been with the firm for nearly two years now, flexibility is where she flourishes.
“As an Aboriginal woman who lives in an obligatory society with strong connections to family, I have to have balance."
"Flexibility is my leader saying to me – "Erin, you work how you need to work to achieve work/life/culture balance, you decide the best way to deliver high performance". This says to me: I respect you, I trust you, I value you. It drives the best in me, every single time.”
Last year, Erin was awarded PwC’s Diversity and Inclusion Award for development and implementation of our first Elevate RAP.
She strongly believes our success is largely determined by the passion of our people, supported by leadership committed to creating meaningful change.
“Our leadership equally believes in reconciliation. Right from the CEO to my team leader and with each interaction with the National Reconciliation Governance Group, the conversations are all about ‘how to remove the roadblocks’. It’s incredible.”
As we step into the second year of Elevate RAP, Erin continues to lead with her heart, building trust in society and helping us solve important problems.
In her own quiet time she has released an album and is most proud of her song “Canoes on the River of Tears”, written by her dad about her Nanna and the Stolen Generation.
Want to create your career with PwC? Erin shares her father's wisdom: Good, better, best - never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best. Get started on your journey here.