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First Peoples

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The Indigenous Public Servant Forum brought together – for the first time – 65 senior Indigenous public servants from Australia and New Zealand. The purpose of the forum was to establish cross-jurisdictional networks and share experiences of both challenges and success.

The Forum was focused on tackling issues relating to:

• Indigenous representation and retention in the public sector;

• improving First Peoples’ leadership through the Senior Executive Service (SES) in Australia and New Zealand, and;

• understanding how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Māori can – as public servants – improve the way government engages with Indigenous culture, knowledge and communities.

Professor Kerry Arabena from the University of Melbourne facilitated the forum. Kerry, a descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, brought her expertise and background in public health, administration, community development and research to her facilitation of the forum.

The tone of the forum was set by the Welcome to Country by Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Jude Barlow and an introductory celebration of Indigenous culture through a musical performance from Belle Whyte, a descendent of the Murrawarri people of north-western New South Wales. Discussion at the forum was visualised by a graphic recorder, whose recordings are included in this report.

The forum was a first step, establishing the networks and a safe space for the group of senior Indigenous public sector leaders to frame the discussion. The following report provides a thematic summary of some of that discussion. The program provided opportunities for a number of invited speakers to deliver themed material and other sessions allowed for more free-flowing conversations among delegates.

It begins by outlining the successes, opportunities and potential of Indigenous public sector leadership that were highlighted during the forum.

The report then moves on to some of the individual challenges delegates shared with the group.

Much of the discussion was concerned with the way the public sector needs to change to respond to the challenge of stronger representation and leadership from First Peoples as well as more productive relationships with Indigenous communities. The report summarises these discussions.

Drawing on the stories, experiences and reflections of the forum delegates, the final section proposes some key issues to frame continuing discussion and the development of an outcomes-focused approach for the proposed 2018 forum.

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