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Give me five minutes, and change Australia

13 February 2014

Speed read. Skim to the end, or sit back with a cuppa and enjoy five minutes of good.

Because your attention, here, now, can make a difference to Australia for years to come.

First, let me ask you. Have you ever pulled up to supermarket checkout queue and not been a little bit curious about Brads abs or Kim’s fashion sense or whether Mylie has anything left to shock us with?

No one much wants to admit they read the weekly mags or the trashiest gossip that dominates a lot of online news sites now, but most people must really enjoy them, because they seem to be spreading their fairy floss celebrispam across our waking moments.

Brace yourself.

This article is not about them BUT KEEP READING. The truth is, stories about great and important things that can change Australia radically for the better are not always that interesting – but this one is. Really.

Which I guess is why you probably have not heard of my organisation. We spend about  three percent of our budget on advertising and fundraising, whereas many other not for profit organisations competing for a slice of your attention are spending well over 10 percent and mostly 15-20 percent of what they receive on fundraising and marketing.

Is it virtuous that we are spending so little, or foolish, because in this day and age, you need to spend more money in order to receive more donations? This, my darlings, is a question of governance – of what is right and prudent in order to keep your peeps morally afloat and yet also employed.

Alright, now the ‘g’ word is out there, I can let you in on a little secret. The education program that sounds more boring than any other on the planet, that involves building knowledge about laws, about balance sheets and about rules, is in fact one of the most interesting subjects you’ll hear about all year.

Because it turns out that if you are Indigenous, like me, you have a life expectancy that is going to average 9 years less than a non-Indigenous woman, you have a lower average chance of employment, poorer education outcomes and so on. If you are Australian, like me, you will have heard countless stories of dysfunction, of Indigenous programs that missed their target and of well-intentioned programs that just didn’t change anything.

A lack of governance capability in Indigenous organisations is one of the key issues that keeps those negative stories popping up in the news. Sure, it might sound boring, but governance is not really about the rule book, in the end. It’s about whether people employed by remote communities will keep their jobs; whether poor families will get the services they need to keep kids in school and it’s about whether the huge taxpayer investment in closing the gap will be spent well.

All of which bring us back to your five minutes.

My organisation is an Indigenous not for profit education provider. We have been transforming the lives of Indigenous leaders by providing high quality accredited Indigenous leadership training. KPMG reviewed our programs and found that we offered the best value leadership program for Indigenous people in the country, with graduates earning almost $14,000 more on average after completing one of our qualifications.

When Indigenous people get the skills, knowledge and opportunity to fulfil their potential, they contribute more – and all Australia benefits.

We gave been the only national provider of accredited Indigenous leadership training for 12 years, and now have become the only national provider of accredited Indigenous leadership and also Indigenous governance training – adding a new governance course because it is so critical to the future of Indigenous people.

That’s all good.

But this is where you come in.

We have devoted all our effort and almost all our resources to delivering results. We have changed the lives of well over 1000 people – but when the Indigenous population numbers well over 500,000, there is much more work to do.

You can help change Australia by knowing that we exist, caring and telling somebody else. If you can do that, not for me, but for the thousands of Indigenous people we are yet to help, then you will have spent five minutes well today.

If you have another two minutes to spare, check out the extraordinary stories of some of our alumni in our new anti-boring Annual Report. And eventually, as we become known, we will be able to unite Australia’s wallets and minds behind a program that is efficient and effective – by Indigenous people, for the whole of Australia.

That’s a pretty good return on your five minute investment, don’t you think?

Rachelle Towart is CEO of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre