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Opportunities, inspiration and making connections at ANZSOG


Montage of four people – from left: Maori woman in blue top, Aboriginal woman in dark top and orange skirt, Aboriginal man in blue suit and Aboriginal man in checked shirt.
From left: Marama Edwards (NZ), Lesley Richardson (NT), Joseph Wallam (WA) and Josh Smith (Vic)
1 Feb 2019

Indigenous people from Australia and New Zealand who work in the public service came together in December 2018 to improve their skills and extend their professional networks.

The Indigenous Public Servant Forum was organised by the Australia New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), which was formed to help the public service fulfil  its moral responsibility to serve the public as best as it can.

ANZSOG works to inspire and connect public servants across agencies, sectors, jurisdictions and nations.

The forum, held in Canberra at Old Parliament House, facilitated the discussion of issues specific to each nation’s Indigenous inhabitants. interviewed 5 of the forum attendees.

Marama Edwards, from Wellington, has worked in the Ministry of Social Development for 24 years.

‘I saw the conference as an opportunity to advance the growth and development of Indigenous people,’ Marama said.

She shared many insights with the forum on how to manage community expectations versus public sector expectations. Marama emphasised the need for government agencies to develop genuine partnerships with Māori and all Indigenous people that demonstrates co-governance and joint decision making.  This is critical for any government organisation to succeed.

Josh Smith is the head of Aboriginal Affairs in the Victorian Government. This was Josh’s second forum and he came seeking ‘another dose of inspiration’.

‘It’s an opportunity to come together to learn from each other and connect as First Nations people,’ Josh said.

‘Working in Aboriginal affairs has moments of challenge and it helps to see that other people share those challenges and build collective strength and resilience. I think it’s really important as Aboriginal leaders we get together and share that.’

Aboriginal woman in patterned top standing in front of large image.
Paulina Motlop

Paulina Motlop is the Director of Aboriginal Education, Teaching and Learning in the Western Australian Government’s Department of Education. She was drawn into the department to effect significant change.

‘Everything I’ve heard over the last few days matches with where we’re at and heading towards and building on. I’m really pleased to be here,’ Paulina said.

‘If it wasn’t for those who came before us, we wouldn’t know that. If it wasn’t for academics in this space and the available Aboriginal academic literature, we would be less sure of our direction.’

Joseph Wallam is a Community Liaison Officer with the Western Australian Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services. He inspects prisons.

‘This conference is an opportunity to network with those that are in positions that I could engage with to help me do my work,’ Joseph said.

‘The current incarceration rate of Aboriginal men, women and children requires a change in how we incarcerate and rehabilitate our Aboriginal people.’

Joseph said the forum helped him recognise the need for more Aboriginal people in prison management positions.

An important role of the forum is to facilitate networking. Experiences gained and lessons learned can be shared not just at the forum but for years into the future because of personal relationships developed at the forum.

Attending the forum are Indigenous lawyers, academics, psychologists, public administrators, doctors and more. Each of them bring to the lectern or the lunch table, knowledge and experience that others can draw upon for their work.

Lesley Richardson, an Aboriginal Practice Adviser working in child protection for the NT Government sums up the feeling of the forum.

‘This conference gives me pride,’ Lesley said.

‘And it also gives me motivation and inspiration from other Aboriginal people and our brothers and sisters from New Zealand, to walk in their shoes and to be a role model for the future generations of our people coming through the public service.’

Find out more

For more information, go to ANZSOG.

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