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Young Aboriginal Leaders

The Commissioner aims to create and support more young Aboriginal leaders in communities across Western Australia, with particular focus on increasing their participation in decision making about programs and initiatives that affect them.

Aboriginal Leadership Cross-Cultural Solutions program

In 2014, the Commissioner consulted 1,271 Aboriginal children and young people from all major regions of WA about the most important issues in their lives. A report of this consultation – called Listen To Us – was tabled in the WA Parliament on 4 August 2015.

One of the report’s key recommendations was that:

"There needs to be greater efforts to address racism and support reconciliation with a focus on building cross-cultural understanding and connection with all Western Australians, with schools being an important setting for this work."

An important outcome of the consultation is the Commissioner's Aboriginal Leadership Cross-Cultural Solutions program which is focused on recognising and building the leadership capacity of Aboriginal children and young people along with their peers in three schools from across WA: Karratha Senior High School, Girrawheen Senior High School and Narrogin Senior High School.

A mix of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal students from each of the schools participated in a three session leadership development program.

Meet the participants

Session 1

The purpose of this session was to highlight the various forms of leadership within communities and demonstrate the capacity and opportunity for young people, especially Aboriginal children and young people, to participate in decision making in their community. Students learnt skills to help them interview their community role models to better understand their leadership stories and how they got to where they are today. The students also had to reflect on their own leadership stories. Their stories and interviews are shared above.

Session 2

The second session brought all of the students to Perth for a three day camp in August 2018. The camp focused on the common themes/issues raised by the student groups in their first session and assisted them to develop a presentation on the issues and solutions that matter to them. A summary of what they told us can be downloaded below.

While on camp the students:

  • met employees at Rio Tinto to see how companies like Rio Tinto play a role in communities
  • met with alumni from the Yorga Djenna Bidi women’s leadership program at the WA Aboriginal Leadership Institute and heard diverse stories from other leaders
  • completed a tour of Parliament House with a focus on Aboriginal history and watched question time in the Lower House
  • met with the Governor to understand what role he plays in solving community issues and to express their own concerns and experiences directly to him
  • watched Sky Lab, a play by Black Swan and Yirra Yaarkin Theatre Company
  • participated and presented at all three of the Commissioner's Vulnerability Speaker Series events - the Aboriginal Forum for Aboriginal community leaders, the roundtable with senior government decision makers and the seminar with policy makers and representatives from the not for profit sectors
  • were presented with the Commissioner's Talking Leadership publication which aims to inspire young people with stories of success from WA Aboriginal leaders. 

View the video of the students' presentation at the Vulnerability Speaker Series seminar below.

Session 2 - What the participants told us

pdf 375Kb Download pdf

Session 3

The third session was held in each student’s community to re-focus on the issues unique to each community/student group. During the final session the students reflected on what they learnt from other leaders during the camp, how this has affected their views of the issues and solutions relevant to their community and their role in the community. The students then delivered a presentation to an audience of local decision makers and stakeholders from their community about what action and positive change the students would like to see and create in their respective communities going forward.

March 2019 update

The Commissioner visited the students from Girrrawheen Senior High School to follow up on how their leadership journeys had progressed since the completion of the program. One student had gained a leadership role in her school, and others had secured scholarships to further their education. All of the students commented that the program had increased their confidence, encouraged them to take up new opportunities and to speak up about the issues that are important to them.

Engaging with Aboriginal Children and Young People Toolkit

Another key recommendation from the 2014 consultation in the Listen To Us report was that:

"programs and services need to be underpinned by an ongoing commitment to listening and responding to the views of Aboriginal children and young people… it is the role of all organisations that work with Aboriginal children and young people to ensure these meaningful conversations continue."

In response, the Commissioner has produced the Engaging with Aboriginal Children and Young People Toolkit. The toolkit is a dynamic resource that can be used by organisations to engage with Aboriginal children and young people in an effective and meaningful way. It is a sustainable, evidence-based and embedded in culturally secure practice.

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