My name is Dennis Eggington, I am a Nyoongar man from the south-west region of Western Australia; an Adjunct Professor and the CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia Ltd.
I have dedicated my life to working with and for my people, to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in this country. I am a proud father and grandfather, and I continually strive to protect and promote the human rights of First Nations Peoples.
As the eldest grandchild in my mother’s very large extended family it was just expected that I’d be the spokesperson, a mediator, an advocate. I didn’t question that because I just saw it as my role, which lead onto other leadership positions as a young man, such as school captain and an activist speaking out about banning nuclear testing in the Pacific.
I rarely refer to myself as a leader but do accept that many of my actions are perceived by others as leadership. I have always had a burning desire to use my skills, knowledge and passion to work with our community. If that constitutes leadership, then it’s a label I’m comfortable with. I’m fortunate to have learnt so much from wonderful Elders, leaders and community members during my years in WA, NSW and the Northern Territory, where, as a young teacher I confronted the full extent of systemic racism, which drove me to stand proud and strong and face racism head on, a trait that has stayed with me for life.
Leadership is much more than being a charismatic personality. You can’t afford to lead people up the garden path or support causes that have evil intent.
We need future leaders who can stand tall and be proud in our Culture and law.
Don’t be frightened to make the hard choices, because they are the choices which will shape your future and challenge you. You don’t become a leader by taking the easy road, in fact I would describe my own journey as a roller coaster ride, but I am extremely proud of my achievements throughout life.
Good leaders need to have good hearts and good souls.
In the case of leadership in our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the requirements are even more onerous. It’s difficult to separate the issues of leadership in a non-Aboriginal world and the need for understanding of our First Nations Cultural world.
What I do know, is that you are a leader through your actions, not just because you wear the label. Some people are fortunate to be born or thrust into positions where leadership is required, and to their credit, they put their hand up or their best foot forward. However this should not discourage any of our young people from aspiring to become the next generation of leaders in our community.
I have a firm belief that our emerging leaders will change the very nature of our country, a country that has exited colonisation and is re-born with a new partnership between us as First Peoples and the settler society.
I can only see greatness coming from our young people who have inherited a strength of resilience and determination to take hold of this country and show the world that we are in fact some of the world’s best leaders.