Step back five decades and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people were largely excluded from school after Year 8. Even 15 years ago there were only two Indigenous students that completed Year 12 in Victoria. However last year 574 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders finished Year 12. Parallel that with the rise of what Professor Mark Rose, Academic Director of the Emerging Indigenous Executive Leaders Program (EIELP) refers to as the Black Academy: Australian universities across the country now have Aboriginal people at all levels.
The new frontier is thus the boardrooms and C-suite of Australian business, as was highlighted at the recent DCA Building Workplace Capability for Indigenous Australia Network event sponsored by Lendlease and hosted by PwC Indigenous Consulting in Melbourne.
But opening these elite doors to our First Peoples isn’t simply about creating a level playing field or taking measures to amend for the atrocities of the past, which can never be achieved. It is about recognising the unique perspective and enormous skill set that the world’s oldest living culture can bring to the upper levels of management.
“We, through our experience, have a connection to Mother Earth,” explains Professor Rose. “We, as people, work through relationship more than we do transaction. We, as people, have had more than our fair share of emotional intelligence. We see patterns in chaos. We are resilient and resourceful.”
The EIELP is delivered by the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of NSW Business School, in partnership with the Elevate Reconciliation Australia (RAP) Group. Its underlying philosophy is that candidates walk in two worlds. The education provided is not designed to subjugate or push someone to surrender or abandon their culture. Instead it seeks to augment and strengthen, dovetailing cutting-edge management theory with a very rich culture, so these emerging leaders can impact both an Indigenous world and a western world with sophistication and with regard for quality.
“What we bring to the boardroom is a gift that this country sorely needs.”
As we approach NAIDOC Week, revisit your organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Consider what you can do to take it to the next level: Innovate; Stretch; or even Elevate and explore ways to promote your Indigenous talent.
Applications for the 2019 EIELP will open in December.
DCA members can access the full transcript and audio recording of this event.