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What gets us out of bed

24 October 2013

A bunch of flowers on Mother’s Day, a Christmas card from an unfailing relative or a simple hello from an old friend when you walk down the street - recognition in any form it takes is crucial to our well-being.

Recognition helps to validate our presence on the Earth and our decision to get out of bed in the morning. While former supermodel Linda Evangelista famously proclaimed she’d not wake up for less than $10,000 a day, the prospect of a simple smile of recognition and a positive word is generally enough to spur most of us on.

It was therefore the most exciting news I’ve heard in a while when 12 indigenous women were named among Australia’s top 100 women of influence in this year’s Westpac Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence awards.

As a woman who spends a huge amount of every week trying to raise the capabilities and profiles of indigenous leaders at the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC), I have the privilege of meeting thousands of extraordinary men and women who may not be household names, but who deserve to be.

So it’s no surprise to me that there are 12 indigenous leaders recognised amongst Australia’s top 100. The surprise – and pleasure - instead is that the abundance of talent that fires my passion is now becoming so vigorous and obvious that it is now being recognised in the wider community.

A number of Australia’s leading corporations have taken a lead role in supporting indigenous leadership – enabling their staff and many other Australians to develop the knowledge, skills and networks required to fulfil their true potential.

One woman who has played a pivotal role in developing indigenous leadership capability was not recognised in this years’ list, but, in my view, truly deserved to be. As CEO of one of Australia’s largest organisations, Gail Kelly could have chosen to have exclusively focused on development of branches, account profitability and other key banking activities. But the Westpac CEO has taken a significant amount of time, and invested significant resources in, supporting indigenous organisations such as the AILC.

This is not the relationship a casual observer would expect. Our relatively small but successful organisation has a remarkably deep relationship with Westpac, extending to support in strategy development, human resources management, governance and numerous other areas – providing access to high level expertise that a not-for-profit organisation would never normally be able to afford.

Aunty Gail has invested a significant amount of her time in the AILC as well – personally hosting lunches and seminars for the AILC that cement our common understanding and strong relationship.

This support has been pivotal in delivering tangible improvements for the AILC, in our operation and approach. We have been recognised as the 2013 ACT small RTO of the year, have secured multi-year funding for the first time, and have delivered a record number of courses to indigenous leaders.

We are very proud to offer a high quality course that changes people’s lives, while maintaining high standards of accountability and governance. We need to offer the chance for change to far more people in order to help make a serious impact on indigenous disadvantage and will only achieve that with help from friends like Aunty Gail. The experience from the 100 Women of Influence awards helps to underscore that change is on the way.

Rachelle Towart is CEO of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre and was named one of the 2013 100 Women of Influence in the Social Enterprise/Not For Profit category.

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