Saturday, June 25, 2011

The National Congress - a post event round-up

WELL, I wasn’t successful in my nomination as a Director on the first-elected Board of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. I let many friends know this result on the day of the announcement of the ballot results, but have been a little slower getting back on the blog.

I am more than happy to be an active Member and Delegate of Congress, although I was initially a little disappointed about my unsuccessful nomination. I am Member #1552 and at this time membership is both free and for life to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 18. I’d encourage Mob to join up and get involved. 

I also fully support the newly elected Board and wish them all the very best.

KIRSTIE Parker, editor of the Koori Mail, worked her fingers to the bone to bring her readership the range of people and perspectives from the inaugural meeting of Congress. See Koori Mail edition 503 for the little and big stories out of Congress 7-9 June, 2011.

UNITY was one of the keywords resonating throughout Congress. And in my fortnightly column with the National IndigenousTimes (out Thursday 23 June) I reflect on that word as it resonated at the Congress.

I enjoyed the entire Program and my time at Congress and never once forgot how critical it, as a representative organisation, can be for the future of our peoples here in Australia. 

The highlights for me were:
  • Being part of such a broad base of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation. 
  • Hearing about the long journey to establishment of the Congress (as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee) from those whose hard work has brought it to this point. 
  • Ms Jacqueline Johnson Pata’s Keynote Address, giving us insights from her point of view as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians.
  • Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue’s (AC, CBE, DSG) Official Opening Address. Dr O’Donoghue, approaching her 80th year, has no apologies to make to anyone and she gave words that surely left no-one in any doubt that she sees Congress as a very strong stepping stone to better futures for Us Mob 
  • The Hon Linda Burney MPs Conference Dinner Speech was phenomenal. Another strong woman whose dignity, experience and words surely inspired all who heard them; they did me. The thing that most stayed with me from what Linda said were words to the effect that those in leadership roles carry forward the aspirations of others, and with that comes responsibility and privilege. Linda also reminded people to take care of themselves and each other and to also remember to have some fun along the way. 
  • Hearing the outgoing Interim Board Chairs Josephine Bourne and Sam Jeffries speak and getting some time with them was also a valuable highlight.
  • Listening to and talking with Co-Chairs Elect Les Malezer and Jody Broun was also a highlight.
  • Meeting all the other Delegates! and staff of the Congress Secretariat  
It’s an important time in the management of our affairs, and I am engaged in this time as a woman and mother doing my part in raising members of our next generation, and in the work I do as an editor, writer and scholar. I also believe that all that I do is complemented by my being a National Congress Member and Delegate of Congress.
I’d encourage everyone to keep abreast of the National Congress news and public statements on  the important events that are affecting us and our communities.  See images event and video of this historic event.

    We can never be assured of what’s going to happen in the future but I take heart from the words of Mohondas Gandhi (1869-1948) who said, “Be the change you want to see.” 

    If we are the change we want to see, at least we can have the satisfaction and clear conscience of knowing that within ourselves and within our own circle of influence we are being true. It may also be the case that others see the examples we are setting and find wisdom in those approaches.

    Till next!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Extra/Ordinary involvement

    In some ways I think I'm very ordinary and in other ways I think I'm quite extraordinary, and these two things directly relate to my involvement in the National Congress.

    • I'm a Mother 
    • I cut school lunches and drop my sons off at school , and as much as possible I pick them up 
    • I prioritise so that my family has a roof over our heads, food on our table, electricity connected and some of the other things that we feel is necessary to our lives [club sports for the boys, gym membership for me, and a home Internet connection]

    • I'm a single Mother 
    • I'm an Aboriginal woman who *owns* her own home [courtesy of a mainstream financial institution lending facility] 
    • I have worked in government and higher education as well as worked as a book editor in the publishing industry 
    • After many years of the big work-life juggle I decided to "clear my head" and enrol in a PhD, which I anticipated would also give me a bit more work-life flexibility 
    • I'm in the last couple of months of my Doctorate and in many ways it helped fulfill both of those goals. It's an incredible journey of self-discovery and learning discovery, it is also an immense challenge, particularly while raising children
    So, how does this relate to me getting involved in National Congress?
    1. I care about what happens to us Mob, to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 
    2. I want a say in how government and society views us and responds to our unique status and to our needs; bearing in mind we have similar needs to everyone else and like everyone else I deal with these things on a daily basis; as an Aboriginal person I think we also have distinct issues relating to recognition of us as First Peoples and I think a lot of problems arise from this unreconciled situation
    3. I'm a good listener and as I say in my statement "a strong communicator, writer and thinker", and I think I'm in an ideal position to offer good, strong and positive thinking to the National Congress National Board while being in touch with and having empathy for the challenges lots of Mob feel on the ground
    So, over the next couple of days I will be sharing more so that you may understand a little more about where I'm coming from. Feel free to have a look around.

    Thanks for visiting, Sandra

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    The National Congress

    For just over twelve months I’ve been involved with the National Congress. I am a member of the National Congress and then I became a delegate and now I am a Director nominee.

    I signed up to the Congress  this time last year, Winter, 2010. I remember trekking from Kelvin Grove over to the Jagera Arts Centre after a day of writing on campus. It was cold and I know I was tired at the time and I wasn't relishing the idea of the 1 hour train commute back to Caboolture later that night.

    At Jagera I got to yarn with other Murries and Torres Strait mob and to listen to Co-Chairs Kerry Arabena and Sam Jeffries. I was impressed.

    Kerry and Sam's way of talking also encouraged me. This didn't feel like a closed shop. This felt like it was a genuine attempt to bring in sisters and brothers, aunties and uncles; not just build something up for the benefit of a few.

    Congress seemed to be a new opportunity for us to have our say, to name the things we know are important to us, to seek the change we want and need. In short to represent our voices and try to put forward a strong and unified voice on the big picture issues.

    For me though the big picture is never far from the everyday, and that was the other thing that struck me. The structure of Congress made me feel like I could get involved.

    It made me feel that I, as an Aboriginal woman and mother, could have a say and that my say could be heard. And that I could encourage others to be involved, not with a view to Congress solving everyone's problems but as an opportunity to work together amongst ourselves so that we could show others, including government, what we really do need to solve our own problems.

    When the call-out was made for Members to nominate as Delegates. I thought, "why not?". So, I did and was selected. Then, when the call-out came for Delegates to nominate as Directors, this time I thought much, much longer and harder, did I really want to step that far into the front-end?! After talking with a number of family and friends, I decided, that yes, I did.

    I decided I wanted to step up, I wanted to use my voice and I wanted to listen to what our people were saying was important. And most of all I wanted to use my strengths: my strong Aboriginal background and my formal education and professional skills, to be part of this new opportunity to bring our voices and hopefully our collective voice into the public domain, up to government and out into the broader society. And always back and forth between ourselves, between Members and other members of our communities around Australia.

    Thus, here I am today a Nominee for a Director of the Board of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples

    Thanks for visiting, Sandra


    This is all quite new for me, a friend has helped me slip into the blogosphere because I want to create a space to share ideas with others.

    I've been thinking about this for a while, encouraged by Leesa's example! and when I nominated for a Director position with the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, it seemed the perfect time to do *something* so that people could get to know me a little better.

    I will find out in just a few days if I become a Congress Director. So, that purpose is quite short-term, but I'm thinking I'll continue beyond that. Let's see how we go.

    Thanks for visiting, Sandra