The pathway to empowerment in Yorta Yorta country

Three weeks ago I moved to Shepparton on secondment for three months.

I am working in the Goulburn-Murray region as part of the Empowered Communities, a national program, driven by a collaboration of Indigenous leaders across eight regions. They are working together with various levels of government and corporate Australia to reform how Indigenous policy and programs are designed and delivered.

Their vision is to ensure Indigenous people benefit from their right to economic, social and cultural development and, in pursuit of that goal, resources and opportunities are productively used.

My experience has been incredible. From my first day on Yorta Yorta country, the Aboriginal community have gone to great lengths to make me feel welcome and a valued contributor to the initiative. Before starting my secondment, I had concerns the community might be hesitant to take the time to build relationships with secondees, given the short length of the secondments and the large number of secondees coming into Shepparton each year. How wrong I was.

In my first week, I was taken out to the Cummereragunja Reserve to have a cuppa with Uncle Cole (one of the most respected Elders in the area), thrown a welcome lunch with my team and members of the community and taken out for meals by a number of the CEOs of the organisations involved with Empowered Communities.

Since arriving I have met influential and inspiring Aboriginal leaders, business leaders and politicians. On my very first morning, Paul Briggs OAM, Chairman of the company I have been seconded to, called me and said, “You better put your Melbourne clothes on – we’re going for a drive to speak to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs”.

The extent of leadership involvement across the community demonstrates the growing momentum and appetite for the Empowered Communities initiative.

With the recent delivery of Empowered Communities: Empowered Peoples Design Report (outlining the long-term plan for an Indigenous Empowerment framework), the communities are readying themselves for implementation.

My role is preparing communities in the Goulburn Murray for implementation of the program. I am working closely with the community to develop a data management and analysis protocol for the Empowered Communities Secretariat in the region, and developing a community engagement strategy to drive broader awareness and support within the region.

And after work, I enjoy netball training with the girls at the Rumbalara Football Netball Club and on Thursday nights, playing with the kids at the community dinners. This club is vital in providing a place for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to celebrate their culture and identity.

As I look around, I see a proud and tightly knit community driven by a vibrant future.

Driving a shared understanding, experience and celebration of Aboriginal culture will be key to forging strong partnerships to ensure ongoing change.

Feature Image: Rowena Allen, Paul Briggs, Giustina Salvestro-Booth, Felicia Dean (L to R)

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