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Lead on, the message is clear
08 August 2013
As Australia embraces a true spirit of
reconciliation, my organisation, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre
(AILC), is playing a significant role in closing the gap between Indigenous and
non-Indigenous Australians. We have delivered historic leadership training
programs for women from the Stolen Generation, young people from urban
Australia and a thousand others in between.
The AILC seeks to build a spirit of resilience
and confidence in Indigenous people across Australia, equipping them with the
skills, knowledge and opportunities that will enable them to thrive.
The AILC is at a crossroads: for every
Indigenous leader we accept on our courses, another 10 excellent applications
must be rejected but new opportunities to expand the organisation are arising
as both Federal and State Governments acknowledge the importance of Indigenous
leadership training to the future of Indigenous Australia.
Gillard Government in mid June announced a significant increase in its investment
in the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC), committing $8.36 million
over the next four years for the delivery of accredited leadership programs to
investment will nearly double the number of places available through accredited
AILC leadership programs and will see an additional 720 Indigenous leaders
graduate from its courses by 2017.
funding is in addition to more than $5.6 million the Government has provided to
enable more than 430 Indigenous Australians take part in AILC programs from
2009 until now.
leadership requires all of Australia’s first peoples to reconsider if they are
fulfilling their potential. I say requires, because with the gap in employment,
in life expectancy, in health and many other indicators between Indigenous and
non-Indigenous people in Australia, it is my view that all Indigenous people
have a responsibility to consider their leadership potential.
When I mentioned leadership, did you think of
Many don’t recognise the leadership
capabilities within themselves. The truth is, leadership takes many forms – and
it’s not just about shouting loudest, being the strongest or always winning.
The great Indian leader Mahatma Ghandi said: We
must be the change we wish to see in the world.
That saying has as much power for us today as
it did for the Indian people as they tried to overcome the legacy of
colonisation and disharmony after World War Two. Leadership starts with a
stronger sense of self. It is only when we can explore and understand the
extent of our own potential and fulfil that potential that we can start to
explore what it means to be a leader.
There has never been a more important time for
every Indigenous person to pause to consider the change that they wish to see
in the world and the ways that they can be instrumental in writing positive
change into the future of Indigenous Australians.
Education is critical in unlocking the
potential of Indigenous people across the country. I truly believe that I have
one of the most exciting jobs in Australia. Indigenous leadership education and
training gives Australians the chance to re-cast our story; to transition to a
new national narrative which associates Indigenous communities with a new
reality of hope, opportunity and achievement.
A Scottish politician, Lord Brougham, made a
strong point about education as a critical element in leadership which we can
all identify with. He said: Education makes a people easy to lead, but
difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.
My organisation – and your organisation - The
Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre offers an Indigenous solution that
everyone can support, because it’s based on education, and a powerful model of
place-based education which is proven to work.
Founded by visionary Indigenous leaders in
2001, the AILC remains the only national provider of accredited Indigenous
leadership training programs, and we have developed complementary programs in
Indigenous Governance and Indigenous Diversity Mentoring to provide a unique
Indigenous leadership development pathway. All Australians benefit from, as
Indigenous people are provided with the skills, knowledge and support required
to fulfil their true potential.
Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre courses
don’t attempt to erase or compensate for loss and disadvantage – they actively
recognise those issues for Indigenous people and help people to move beyond
those constraints, to become the best that they can be.
Sometimes, even I am surprised by the power of
an accredited leadership course. Literally hundreds of our graduates have
spontaneously written to us, telling us how their lives have been changed after
graduating from one of our course. Some have changed careers. Some have started
new businesses. Some have a promotion. And others are just more comfortable
living in their own skin. They are all contributing more. They are all committed
to playing a part in positive change. And that is a good news story for
Australia which will resonate for years to come.
In around 550 BC ancient Chinese Philosopher
Lao Tzu made an inspirational comment about the power of the quiet leader: A
leader is best when people barely know he exists … He acts without unnecessary
speech and when the work is done, the people say ‘We did it ourselves’.
Whether you, like many of us, may crave quiet
leadership, and others of you may be more comfortable behind a megaphone, we
all have a potential to live up to – and we all, together stand on the brink of
I extend an invitation for you to add your
voice to the critical mass of Indigenous leaders that is developing across
Australia right now, in a network of support, knowledge and ideas that is
already driving positive change in the lives of thousands of families and
hundreds of communities across the nation.
Indigenous leadership has been recognised as a
critical element of closing the gap by the council of Australian Governments
and a number of the nation’s largest corporations.
Learning is not something that finishes after
school, or at the end of your time at university. To extend yourself, and to
explore the full extent of your identity, your values and your potential, you
need to keep striving to learn throughout your life. In the moments when I am
feeling demotivated and a bit daunted by what could lie ahead, I think of a
phrase written by the writer Joseph Conrad, who observed: It is only those who
do nothing that make no mistakes.
It is time we wrote our own quotes and mapped
out our own future. At the AILC as we seek to play a part in helping to build a
stronger future for Indigenous people and a stronger future for the nation.
not as onerous as it sounds. Leadership for some may simply mean becoming a
little more comfortable in their own skin – confident of identity – proud of
culture. This may sound like a small consequence of leadership, but this quiet
change is a powerful and distinctive leadership asset – offering opportunities
for a stronger culture for generations to come.
on AILC: http://ailc.org.au/
Rachelle Towart is the CEO of AILC and has held
the position for more than four years. Rachelle is a Ruby Women at Work and was
one of two 2013 Mary Reibey Scholarship winners. She recently completed the
AGSM Executive Programs’ General Manager Program course.