Nicola O'Callaghan | Class of 2011


Graduating from Av԰ in 2011, Nicola went straight to Murdoch University, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Public Relations, Tourism and Events.

But like many young people in that phase of life, she was unsure of what she wanted to do or which career path to take.

“All I knew was that I wanted a corporate job which involved lots of events and travel - I’ve actually been lucky enough to get that.

“But there I was, in my final year of university, graduating in a few months and thinking I should probably get an internship before leaving.”

Some time later, an opportunity came up with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), to work in their Media and Corporate Communications team which she jumped at.

“Six years later I’m still here and in a job that I absolutely love!” she says.

Her efforts in her current role at DFES as Marine Services Officer have not gone unnoticed either, recently seeing her awarded the 2021 DFES Corporate Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution.

This significant award was for her work in developing and implementing the new Marine Rescue WA brand across the State and supervising and mentoring three Public Sector Commission Indigenous trainees.

Nicola was awarded the DFES Corporate Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution in 2021.

The project involved implementing a State wide re-brand of 37 Marine Rescue groups, standardising vessel livery for over 73 vessels, as well as building signage, business stationary, email addresses, radio callsigns and volunteer uniforms.

“I was 24 at the time and walked into a mammoth project, but after meeting the volunteers and seeing their enthusiasm for the project, it gave me the motivation to do everything I could to make sure they got exactly what they needed,” she said.

Driving the branding project, Nicola also supervised three trainees, both guiding them on working in a corporate environment as well as through any personal issues they were dealing with.

“Seeing them grow from start to finish was so rewarding and two of them are still at DFES, absolutely excelling in their careers and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Nicola said. 

On her work, Nicola says she has been provided with experiences she would’ve have never imagined possible during her years at Av԰.

“I’m extremely thankful for everything my role has given me. From travelling across WA and the Indian Ocean Territories, visiting some of the most remote places all the way from Esperance to Kununurra,” she said.

“I’ve snorkelled with sharks in Cocos Keeling Islands, spotted crocs in Kununurra and caught giant mud crabs in Derby.”

She explained that the experiences made available to her are only possible because of the 1800+ Marine Rescue volunteers across the State who give up their time to help the community.

“Working with these volunteers is genuinely inspiring, they’re out on the water in the early hours of the morning helping a fisherman who has broken down, or searching at night in horrific weather looking for someone’s Dad, brother or friend who never came home.

“What I do in comparison to these people is nothing and it’s really inspiring being able to help them and promote the amazing work they do,” she said.

 On her years at Av԰, Nicola says it was the teachers rather than the subjects that made a lasting impression.

“Having teachers that support you and allow you to grow as a young adult was key, people like Miss Cattapan and Mr Guard played a big role in my high school experience.

“The person who made the biggest impression on me though, was the careers advisor at the time, Mrs Middleton,” she said.

“She was the one who put me into a traineeship and was the reason I got into university and am where I am today. People like that are so important to a young person’s growth and are invaluable to the Av԰ Community.”

Nicola hopes to keep taking each experience as it comes and continue enjoying her job and offered some words of advice to current students.

“Happiness is worth way more than money and if you can find something that brings you both, make sure to hold onto it.

“I’d encourage students not to burden themselves stressing about finding a ‘path’ or a ‘passion’, just enjoy your high school experience because everything will fall into place afterwards,” she said. 

“For me everything started to fall into place at University. For you that might be TAFE or taking a break to decide what you want to do. Just breathe, it’s all going to be fine!”

Av԰ Communications