From bricklayer to future leader

Karl Williamson

Karl Williamson is a young leader from Dubbo whose career aspiration is to incorporate Aboriginal knowledge and culture in mainstream Australian society. Karl has charted a path from bricklayer to child welfare worker and now, Westpac is helping Karl head back to university to undertake his Masters of Social Work at Monash University, with a Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship. 


We caught up with Karl to chat about his background and his aspirations for the future.


Australia means so much to me because it is home to me, my family and has been for tens of thousands of years. I love our diversity but also our connection through our unique outlook on life and casual attitude. I also love the landscape; no matter where you go in Australia there is something unique and beautiful.


As a kid I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I was growing up. I think this is evidenced by the fact that since leaving school at the end of year ten I have completed a trade as a bricklayer, worked in a pub, on a farm and now work in child welfare.


Not many people in my adult like know that I was in a school youth circus. I only bust my skills out now to cheer kids up at work or to win a bet at the pub.


Dad was always in the shed tinkering with his bikes when I was growing up and it definitely rubbed off. I am part of a vintage motorcycle club and own a 1970 Kawasaki, a 1956 BSA and a 1960 Triumph scooter.


I’m still not so sure what I want to be, but what I do know is that I want to work for and alongside my people to stop ongoing cycles of trauma in this country. It’s just not right that our kids are more likely to be taken from their families, we are more likely to die young or go to jail.


The older I have gotten the more self-confident and self-aware I have become. My perception of myself has changed for the better and I feel like I now know where fit in the world. To make this country an even better place, I think I can help Australia recognise the strength and value of Indigenous knowledge. I feel that if more was known and accepted about the negative history of this nation and the harm inflicted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that a lot of the injustices in this country would begin to rectify themselves.


I think the most important thing to me in being remembered is my family. I would hate to look back and think I missed the big (or little) moments. I would love to think I can change the world for the better but my family will always come first.  


I am excited to be a Westpac Scholar because of the opportunities it will offer me. I can’t wait to start the leadership development program to make myself a next level leader and to build connections with other forward thinking peers. I am also stoked about the potential doors being a Westpac Future Leader can open for me. 


The advice I’d give to other aspiring leaders is don’t take yourself too seriously or stop finding fun in what you do. 


Karl is one of 17 exceptional young Australians who have recently been awarded a 2018 Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship, together valued at over $2million.  


Published 20 Feb 2018 

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