“The emerging leaders from different communities exchange insights about their experiences, so we don’t have to do the legwork all over again”. Drawing on the strength and the mistakes that some communities made is going to be a real positive.”
Chris Ingrey, the chief executive of the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council
Emerging Indigenous leaders (back row from left): Margaret Blackman, Mary O’Reeri, Anthony Mara, Sean Gordon. Noel Pearson, Harold Ludwick, Fiona Jose, James Fa’Aoso. Front row from left: Neil Morris, Ian Trust, Chris Ingrey. Photo: Louie Douvis Published by AFR Boss
Please note spelling and use of the word “indigenous” is not NACCHO policy
MARY O’REERI became involved in community leadership when she lost two of her brothers to suicide. The 44-year-old mother of four and grandmother of two, who holds a bachelor of education from Notre Dame university, helped convene a national summit in the Kimberley, to address the alarming rise in youth suicide in the region.
O’Reeri, an indigenous engagement officer with the federal department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA), is not known nationally as an indigenous leader
.But with seven others she was chosen as an emerging leader by Jawun, the Indigenous corporate partnerships group which engages corporate, government and philanthropic partners to offer skills and resources to remote communities.
Jawun, founded as the Indigenous Partnerships Enterprise with Westpac, Boston Consulting Group and the Myer Foundation as sponsors in 2001, has become the go-to group for corporations wanting to engage in indigenous development. Its aim, with the emerging leaders program, is to build a pipeline of young leaders in the indigenous community.
The second Jawun emerging leaders program took eight indigenous young leaders from remote communities who were chosen because of their roles in driving local initiatives.
They were also teamed with corporate partners from Leighton Contractors and the Commonwealth Bank and FAHCSIA, and also completed workshops with indigenous leaders including Warren Truss and Sean Gordon. After a visit to the Cape York Institute where Jawun’s patron Noel Pearson coached the group on how to challenge the status quo, they visited North East Arnhem Land, Redfern in Sydney and the NSW Central Coast.
Before being chosen as a Jawun emerging leader, Chris Ingrey, the chief executive of the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council worked to lower the crime rate among young people in his area. Back in 2005, he says, every Monday morning, stolen cars would be dumped on the Land Council’s property in La Perouse. “The young fellas would steal cars, they’d steal tractors, some even brought in earth-moving equipment. We’d have continual breaking into our own property. It became the norm.”
The local community started a fitness and activity program to draw in a slightly younger age group. Over time, it has had a dramatic impact. Ingrey says that since the programs were introduced “we haven’t had a stolen property dumped in our community for a number of years now. We’ve only had one break-in. We want to be able to build on that success and start more leadership programs”.
The emerging leaders from different communities exchange insights about their experiences, Ingrey says, “so we don’t have to do the legwork all over again”. “Drawing on the strength and the mistakes that some communities made is going to be a real positive.”
James Fa’Aoso, another emerging leader, who is head of leadership at the Cape York Institute, draws inspiration from his mentor, Noel Pearson.
“He told us a good analogy, which he shared [from Mark Ella]. He says the most important person on the rugby team is not the person with the ball, it’s the person running onto the ball, and their decision whether they run outside or run inside, and the important time to call for it.
“He was referring to us. For myself, and the emerging leaders, we are ready to run on the field and run those angles and to call for it, and I’ll believe we’ll catch it.”
If you are interested in emerging leaders
Justin Mohamed April 2 National Press Club Canberra
Bookings are now open and selling fast -do not miss out