Former Eden Marine High School principal Adrian Bell is a Wiradjuri man from the Central NSW district, but discovering his own Indigenous identity has been serendipitous at times.
"Like many people, I didn't find out about my Aboriginal heritage until a little bit later in life," he said.
"It's interesting though that all throughout my career I've always connected with Aboriginal communities, not necessarily knowing my history."
Mr Bell's grandmother was a member of the Stolen Generation, taken from her family as a child and placed in a white household. When his father was born, it was not acknowledged that he was Indigenous.
"When I started to have my own kids, I wanted to track my family history and basically I got to a point where I couldn't find anymore information about my dad's side."
It was at that point when he started to ask family members and came to the realisation that his grandmother was a First Nations woman. He said it was something his family knew but didn't really talk about.
"We're talking about a different generation here and technically when I was born I would not have been counted as Australian if my heritage was Indigenous because that was prior to the 1967 referendum," he said.
"It just seemed to make sense of the work I was doing once I found that information out."
There were key moments in his life where he connected with culture before realising his heritage.
From an Elder who told him there was something he didn't know about himself, to various roles he was offered in the space of education for First Nations people.
Mr Bell has worked in a number of roles with the Department of Education throughout his 38-year career, 18 of those years spent in principal's roles across the state, including at Eden.
Mr Bell said he was first inspired to become a teacher by two of his high school English teachers who both really "opened up my world".
He started his career as an English and drama teacher after studying at the University of Newcastle.
It was during that time that one of those unexpected moments occurred. Due to his drama background he was asked by a group of Elders to assist them with a performance of their histories.
"They invited me to the performance and here I was thinking I was the only white person in the whole building, actually not knowing that I wasn't," he said.
From his role at Newcastle he moved to Wollongong and was asked to work with the local Aboriginal Health team to develop better outcomes programs.
Following this role, he took a posting in Walgett to relieve the deputy principal and then the principal and said all of the students at that school were First Nations.
"My career has always been about engaging in and trying to get the best outcomes for all young people, but it's also somehow found its way organically into working very much with our Aboriginal communities in all the places that I've been," he said.
For Mr Bell, the chance to connect with Indigenous kids and communities and help "get things right" creates an opportunity for all Australians to connect with their own diverse histories.
"I see it as nation building and all as a very positive thing, if we know our history and we are very honest about our history we're able to move forward as a nation, it's when we won't accept the truth, it makes it difficult for us to accept that we're all one nation and one people."
Although Mr Bell formally retired from the Department of Education in June 2021, he continues to work for head office on a leadership project to mentor aspiring young Indigenous leaders in the education sector.
He now considers himself to be semi-retired, but still often finds his work spread out over a full working week.
When he isn't working on the leadership project he may be travelling to schools around the state to teach professional learning about race and racism.
Mr Bell now lives in Eden and also spends time in Canberra. He feels extremely connected to the community after being the principal of Eden Marine High School for four years.
He said when he first started at the school, he couldn't see the issues of race and racism as prevalent as it was at other schools he worked at, largely thanks to the work of the Elders group in connecting the community in the area.
"I'm actually most comfortable in Eden because I believe it's a little gem of the community in that it all seems to make sense collectively there.
"It's almost as though that's where I'm meant to end up in my career, because I've met beautiful people like Uncle Ossie Cruse who have an understanding of how we should be connecting with each others," he said.