Building a sustainable pathway for future Indigenous leaders takes commitment, passion and a good measure of guts.
Our most recent forum shone the spotlight on three groups who have all these things: PwC’s Indigenous Consulting Business, non-profit organisation CareerTrackers and Fire & Rescue NSW’s IFARES program.
All three groups are taking positive steps towards building a sustainable pipeline of future Indigenous leaders, whether through creating employment opportunities, nurturing careers, supporting education and battling bias.
There were some strong themes that emerged from our discussion with the three speakers.
1. Debunking the myths around Indigenous talent
Nareen Young, Director at PwC Indigenous Consult, passionately spoke out against the perception that there is no indigenous talent in the marketplace.
Indigenous people have always participated in the workforce where possible, argued Nareen. The private sector – which is still unsure which direction to look at for senior Indigenous talent – should learn from and leverage the growth of Indigenous leaders in the public sector.
Nareen also said there is no difference between the approach to Indigenous employment compared to other diversity groups, apart from some cultural nuances. There are two parties in this conversation; both must act. The non-Indigenous community must address how they can move their actions into the mainstream and build a case for business success, not just social justice. The Indigenous community can also help by supporting each other and its future leaders.
2. Creating a support model that lasts beyond one student
For lessons from abroad, Adam Davids, Learning and Development Director at CareerTrackers, turned our attention to the US and an internship program for African-American students called INROADS.
Leveraging INROAD’s success in turning students into industry champions, CareerTrackers has developed a similar program in Australia called the CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program.
According to Davids, the program is designed to reach beyond any one student and their study. Internship participants are supported long after they have graduated and developed their career, and are encouraged to support others when they are in a position to do so.
CareerTrackers is now focused on creating sustainable Indigenous career support amongst businesses, corporates and the community through a ‘10x10’ partnership model, in which companies commit to providing internship positions for students from the CareerTrackers program for 10 years. This preserves the program for the benefit of all Indigenous students around Australia, but also creates a pathway for future leadership.
3. Leading by strength from the back of a fire truck
Fire & Rescue NSW’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, IFARES, attracts 200 applications each year. Working in partnership with FRNSW, TAFE NSW and the local community, IFARES has recruited a number of permanent and retired firefighters over the past three years.
Bill Spek, Station Officer at IFARES, Fire & Rescue NSW, spoke about the positive contribution Aboriginal people are making to modern Australia, and the need to respect Indigenous knowledge. There is real opportunity, he said, to learn about topics such as land management and science from the Indigenous community, and many examples where such learning has been beneficial for Fire & Rescue NSW.
The visual impact of seeing Indigenous people as role models – in business, education, in the community, on the back of the fire truck is enormous – goes a long way towards engaging and educating the broader community.
Having dedicated programs to develop Indigenous fire fighters not only provides a mechanism for employment, but also links in Indigenous youth and builds trust to address local issues, such as the installation of smoke detectors and fire awareness.
It’s clear the culture that is being built on the back of the fire truck speaks volumes to both the non-Indigenous and Indigenous community.
All speakers spoke about that this is an opportunity for all communities to develop, respect, understand, appreciate and preserve the Aboriginal culture. By doing this hand in hand with the development of right pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and leaders would be beneficial to all of business and society.
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