Newslines Radio: Youth leading the way
- Nathan Ramsay
- Casey Keed, ACT
Nateesha Collins, NT
Teangi Brown, TAS
Taneshia Atkinson, VIC
Nayuka Gorrie, VIC
Kimberley Benjamin, WA
Clint Wilson, SA
PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, a weekly program produced by the Australian Government on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
Our mob are certainly a youthful lot. According to 2011 census data, the average age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia is just 21, well below the non-Indigenous average age of 37.
With youth making up such a large percentage of the Indigenous population, more and more of our young people are being encouraged to step up into leadership positions.
Such responsibility can be a lot for young shoulders to bear, but there are plenty of passionate Indigenous youth out there up for the challenge of shaping a better future.
Music-Shape the Way
PRESENTER: Earlier this year, representatives from every state and territory spent a week in Canberra for the first ever National Indigenous Youth Parliament. It was run by the Australian Electoral Commission, in partnership with the YMCA, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Indigenous Australians’ right to vote in federal elections.
With a series of workshops, seminars and parliamentary debates, the 50 young participants were able to experience the federal political process and learn valuable leadership skills.
Young Canberra dance teacher Casey Keed told Newslines that she jumped at the chance to be part of the Youth Parliament and was so pleased to see just how many other young Indigenous leaders were out there.
KEED: Growing up I spent a lot of time on SRC committees and a lot of Indigenous programs and the thing that was different about this one was that it was people connecting from different states. Sometimes you feel isolated or you feel like you’re the only one in your community doing anything. My biggest eye opener through this whole program was that there are other people and that you’re not alone and there are others that want to get on with the job.
PRESENTER: One of the major Youth Parliament events involved the participants presenting bills on issues that were important to their communities. For Nateesha Collins, a Larrakia woman from Darwin, this was a really empowering moment.
COLLINS: I never thought that they’d actually take into account and note down things that I’d say from my issues from my community. Hearing everyone else’s speeches was just so inspirational and what issues are different around Australia that are meaningful for them and their community, it was just awesome to hear.
PRESENTER: Nateesha took the opportunity to encourage the politicians present to consider mandatory cross-cultural awareness training for teachers – something she believes will make a big difference to the quality of education in Darwin.
COLLINS: Because we have a shortage of teachers we get a lot from down south that have never been to communities or have not had the chance to get that cultural awareness before they come into a class that is basically, with schools that are public, a lot of percentage of Indigenous. I had been a tutor at one of the primary schools and I had recognised that there were a few issues with behaviour and learning and I thought that was just one of the things that I would like to bring up.
PRESENTER: The Youth Parliament guest speakers included politicians such as Jenny Macklin, Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett, who each offered plenty of valuable leadership advice to the participants. For Casey, one of the most important lessons was how to communicate effectively.
KEED: Using words to fight, not enragement or anything like that. I think there is a stereotype of being that blackfella on a rampage but I’ve really learnt this week to use your voice and to do it the right way rather than getting angry and lashing out at somebody and making a difference the right way.
PRESENTER: The take home message for Tasmanian Youth Parliament delegate Teangi Brown was the importance of leading by example.
BROWN: Don’t say you’re going to do all these things as a leader, and say this is what a leader is, and then not do them yourself. Lead by example. Be passionate about what you’re leading. Be charismatic and be nice but also be stern at the same time. Make sure everything that you’re saying is precise, meaningful and has the right motives behind it.
PRESENTER: Such leadership expectations can put a lot of pressure on a young person, but Casey said many of the speakers assured the group that even the greatest leaders didn’t always get it right.
KEED: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. When you’re sort of in that leadership role and people are watching you, you do feel like “I’ve got to be perfect” and if I do get it wrong you go home and cry to yourself like “what have I done wrong? I’ve disappointed my family, my people, my colleagues and my friends”. But the one thing I’ve learnt is to not be afraid and rely on other people and be encouraged by them.
PRESENTER: Leadership may be tough but Casey believes more young people need to rise to the challenge.
KEED: As much as government can say young Indigenous people need to take the next step and do this and do that, until we grab it for ourselves, take responsibility of it and go for it, personally I don’t think there’ll be a change in the way Indigenous communities are happening at the moment.
PRESENTER: And when it comes to Indigenous leadership, Yorta Yorta woman Taneshia Atkinson believes young people are in the best position to be taking those roles on.
ATKINSON: I think that because young people are so up to date with things like technology whereas the older generation isn’t so much. Technology and internet communication, that’s what’s leading at the moment and we’re all so familiar with that stuff. And just the fact that we’ve got the energy and we’ve got the drive and we’re still young, bursting with energy, youthful. And the good thing is we’re still in the transition into moving into adulthood so we can understand adults but we can still understand children.
PRESENTER: However, Taneshia said she also realises that the only way youth can lead successfully is by working with the elders and drawing on their wisdom and experience.
ATKINSON: They hold the, not so much ancient power, but that kind of more older power whereas we’re still finding our ropes. So combined with their power, their knowledge and our youth and energy is a really good force.
PRESENTER: You’re listening to Newslines Radio. Today, we’re talking about youth leadership. Because young people make up such a large percentage of the Indigenous population, they are the ones being called upon to lead the way.
Music-Shape the Way
PRESENTER: We’ve just heard from some of the passionate young people who took part in the first ever National Indigenous Youth Parliament. But this wasn’t the only recent forum bringing Indigenous youth leaders together to work on strategies for a brighter future.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples is a national representative body established to conduct research, work with government and industry and provide a collective voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Membership is open to Indigenous organisations as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals over the age of 18.
Kurnai and Gunditjmara woman Nayuka Gorrie was one of the first young people to join the Congress when it was established in 2010.
GORRIE: Being a young Aboriginal person, we make up a large portion of the Aboriginal population and I think it’s important to get our voices heard. So I thought I could make my little contribution by being a member and also particularly getting young Aboriginal women involved as well.
PRESENTER: Last month she joined more than 100 other young National Congress members for the Congress Youth Program in Sydney. Here participants debated the big issues affecting young Indigenous people and learned media, advocacy and campaigning skills that they could use back in their own communities.
Kimberley Benjamin, a Baardi woman from Broome in Western Australia, told Newslines that the group leadership offered by the Congress was very important.
BENJAMIN: We’re not about pointing out leaders; we’re about leaders as a whole group, which is what has really hit me probably the most being here. Where at past forums it’s been “you’re a leader, this is how you be a leader”, whereas we’re becoming leaders as a group, which is a whole different dimension.
PRESENTER: Adnyamathanha man Clint Wilson agrees and says he really values being able to work in a group environment like the Congress.
WILSON: Each of us has our own desire or passion and I think that as a group that’s such an amazing thing or great thing because that allows us to focus mainly on our passion and we can feel confident that the other areas are being taken care of as well. I think a lot of the time young Indigenous leaders become overwhelmed trying to accomplish too much. But bringing it back as a group, we can focus on the step by step ways we’re going to overcome what we want to do first and as a bigger picture it’s going to work better because, like I said before, all the areas are being taken care of.
PRESENTER: As the group discussed the issues they were passionate about, while there were different priorities in different areas, Clint said there was one point everyone agreed on: the importance of constitutional recognition.
WILSON: The Aboriginal people aren’t represented like they should be in the constitution. For a country like Australia, that’s something that you’d expect from a third world country maybe like Kenya or Mozambique. Some of these things are quite ancient and they shouldn’t really be happening now days, but I think it’s time that we as a group, like Congress, really just get in and smash it out of the way so we can move on to some of the harder issues that are facing the Indigenous population.
PRESENTER: Like Clint, Nayuka believes that constitutional recognition should be high on the agenda but that there are other important areas that need to be addressed too.
GORRIE: It seems like it’s in the air, our next big fight will be constitutional recognition, but we have things to go beyond that. That’s one step, that’s one piece to a very big, huge, complicated puzzle. In ten years’ time I would love to see more political representation on a national level in Australia. At the moment we are absolutely under-represented and I think we’re going to have to attack it from a few different places, so representation but also participation. I would love to see all or most if not all Aboriginal people who are eligible to be enrolled to vote. It’s small things like that that really make a difference.
PRESENTER: Tackling issues like constitutional recognition, remote employment and political representation are all big tasks, but by working as a group, Kimberley believes the young Congress members will be able to make a difference.
BENJAMIN: What the Congress has done is brought together 100 young blackfellas all over Australia and it’s done amazing things. We’ve all made networks, we’ve got all our passions. All we need to do from now on is keep working together, keep having that contact and the world’s our oyster.
PRESENTER: To find out more about youth leadership opportunities, and how you can become a member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, check out the links on our website indigenous.gov.au. You can also read our Indigenous Newslines magazine there and friend Indigenous Newslines on Facebook.
The music you heard in this program was from Bryte MC’s Shape the Way.
I’m Nathan Ramsay, catch you next time.