Each week, a new guest hosts the @IndigenousX Twitter account to discuss topics of interest as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people
The Guardian in partnership with IndigenousX, invites its weekly host to tell us about who they are, what issues they’re passionate about, and what they have in store for us during their upcoming week
This weeks host is Warren Mundine and we understand he will be visiting Western Desert communities this week and reporting online
YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO ASK MR MUNDINE A QUESTION
If you are not on TWITTER leave your question (140 characters) in the COMMENTS below and NACCHO media will pass it on Email mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org
Warren Mundine tell us about yourself.
I was born in Grafton in Northern NSW and moved to Auburn in Western Sydney when I was seven years old. I’m from the Bundjalung, Gumbaynggir and Yuin people. My father’s family come from Baryulgil about 80 km north of Grafton, on the Clarence River. He grew up there and moved when he married my mother.
I was one of 11 children and I slept in a single bed with three of my brothers until I was about 12 – which was fine except that my youngest brother wet the bed.
My first name “Nyunggai” means “sun”. It was the skin name that my father gave to me as a child. Recently I changed my name by deed poll to Nyunggai Warren Mundine and so now I use it officially.
My parents worked and sent us to Catholic schools. God, work and school were very important in our family. Even so, as a teenager I started to drift and my reading and writing didn’t progress past primary level. I caused my parents a lot of trouble getting into fights, consuming alcohol and drugs, etc. At one point I was arrested and detained as a juvenile. My parents, a priest and a local white couple stood up for me in court and I was given another chance. They kept an eye on me, I got a labouring job and finished school at TAFE.
I stayed in labouring and trade jobs for about 10 years. My first office job was as a clerk at the Tax Office. I lived in Armidale and Dubbo when my kids were young and got elected to Dubbo Council where I was deputy mayor.
That’s how I got involved in the Labor party, and eventually I was elected its national president. I spent about nine years as CEO of NTSCorp, working with NSW Aboriginal communities on their native title, and I was CEO of GenerationOne in 2013.
I now run my own business and have been appointed to advise the prime minister on Indigenous issues as chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council.
I’m married to Elizabeth and between us we have 10 children (most are grown up). It’s a lot of fun. And of course, I am a mad lover of football.
What do you plan to talk about on @IndigenousX this week?
This week I wrote a blog post which I called The First Tree. It’s about how we address seemingly insurmountable problems. People laugh at on me on Twitter for having simple suggestions – like getting kids to school – and focusing on practical things.
But I don’t think theorising and admiring a problem from every angle achieves much. Sometimes simple things are what leads to the biggest changes, most quickly.
So I will be focussing on the “bread and butter” issues for closing the gap – jobs, education, school attendance, health, welfare – and I want to prompt some discussion on our traditional nations and cultures and what they have to offer us. As always I want to prompt conversations which make people think, and where readers are prepared to challenge their own thinking.
What issue(s) affecting Indigenous peoples do you think is most pressing?
If you read my articles, speeches and blogs you will get a good idea of where I think the priorities are. School attendance, welfare to work and incarceration, particularly juvenile detention, are big ones.
And for communities – social stability, economic and commercial development, land ownership.
The high suicide rates amongst Indigenous people is a devastating problem. I’ve been reading and talking to people over the last few months in particular so as to understand it better. It’s not a topic that is easy to discuss on a medium like Twitter, however.
Who are your role models and why?
My father, Roy Mundine, and mother Dolly Mundine (née Donovan) were big role models in my life. Apart from them, my greatest role model was Lionel Rose, world champion boxer. He was a 19 year old Aboriginal boy from Jackson Flats, and he won the world title. He showed me that the world can be your oyster if you are willing to focus and work hard.
Also Charles Perkins and John Moriarty who both overcame adversity, went to university when it wasn’t easy for Aboriginal people to do that – both played football, and John was selected for the national team.
What are your hopes for the future?
This year my hope is that all Indigenous kids are going to school every school day, and that state and territory governments bring in mandatory diversionary programs for juvenile offenders into jobs and education.
I’ve outlined my long term hopes in a number of my articles and speeches, particularly the Garma Speech and my recent Australia Day address.
In the end, my hope is that Indigenous people can be full participants in Australian life and all it has to offer as well as being part of strong and thriving traditional nations where they can take care of their culture, language, traditional lands and build an economic future.