‘Governance is power!’, June Oscar AO
What are the unique roles Indigenous women play in governing communities? Where are the examples of Indigenous women excelling in their chosen fields? How can communities and professions support young and emerging Indigenous women? These were some of the questions addressed at the inaugural Indigenous Women in Governance Masterclass, convened by the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI) on 30 November 2017.
Held on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation in Barangaroo, Sydney, the Indigenous Women in Governance Masterclass brought together current and emerging leaders to share ideas on the challenges and opportunities faced by Indigenous women in Australia today.
This one-day event was attended by approximately 50 Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders, governance practioners, public servants, community health workers, researchers, and members of the private sector, and included presentations from speakers including June Oscar AO, Dr Jackie Huggins AM and Michelle Deshong, CEO, AIGI.
The Masterclass provided a space for reflection on the stories of the guest speakers and their experiences as community members and community leaders. Speakers revealed important aspects of their individual journeys and the unique challenges they have historically, and continue to face, as Indigenous women. For where advances have been made by Indigenous people, Indigenous men have enjoyed greater opportunity. As Michelle Deshong noted in her reflections, ‘where there were Indigenous people, there were mostly Indigenous men’.
‘Indigenous cultural governance is at the heart of our structures’, Leah Armstrong
Common themes that arose throughout the Masterclass included how to make organisations culturally safe spaces for Indigenous women; mentoring and supporting emerging leaders; how notions of race and gender intersect to disadvantage Indigenous women; Indigenous feminisms; strategies for self-care; and learning to say ‘no’.
Break-out groups also discussed how to facilitate conversations about gender equality on boards and committees; managing the development of emerging leaders; and cultural limitations or considerations for young Indigenous women.
‘Good governance is restorative and healing’, Janine Mohammed
The Indigenous Women in Governance Masterclass wove the experiences of current Indigenous women leaders with the enthusiasm and passion of emerging leaders. Speakers collectively assessed the place that Indigenous women in Australia occupy today, and how to build on the advancements of those who have come before. As Janine Mohamed, CEO of the College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) said, ‘we need to take forward the legacy of those who have come before us’.
Perhaps the most significant message to emerge from the Masterclass was the importance of being genuine. The strength of Indigenous women is informed by Indigenous knowledges and value systems; in particular, knowledges and values unique to Indigenous women. The Masterclass placed less emphasises on the idea of ‘making it’ and more on ‘making it our own’. As Dr Jackie Huggins AM stated, ‘The most important trait Indigenous women can exhibit is to ‘be yourself!’’
AIGI would like to thank all those involved and who played an active role in making the inaugural Indigenous Women in Governance Masterclass a success. If you would like to be informed about upcoming events and masterclasses, please subscribe to the AIGI mailing list. The AIGI team look forward to hosting future Masterclasses in 2018.
‘You have to provide the opportunity for women to get to the table. Once we are there, we will show you we are equal’, Michelle Deshong
For any Pictures and slides used on the day you can click on the below link: