National Indigenous Governance Institute CEO Michelle Deshong shares her Fellowship experience

30 May 2018


What was your Churchill Fellowship topic?

I received my Fellowship award in 2017 to research and apply best practice on Indigenous governance and leadership models. I’ve not long returned from my travels to the USA, Canada, and New Zealand. 


What motivated you to apply for a Churchill Fellowship?

I had undertaken a Fulbright Scholarship a few years before in a related field but did not necessarily have the time to follow up on some critical networks that I had made so this was an opportunity to do that. 

I was also appointed as the CEO of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI), a non-government and not-for-profit organisation that connects Indigenous groups, individuals and organisations to world-class best-practice expertise and knowledge. The organisation is going through a start-up phase which enables me to help shape the purpose and direction of the organisation.  Having insight from other countries was an opportunity to inform this strategic work.


How did the Churchill Fellowship benefit you?

It has been extremely informative, and I have lots of new ideas and information to work with as I think about not only the future of AIGI but also my own leadership and fields of expertise.


How did the knowledge gained from your Churchill Fellowship benefit your work with Indigenous communities and the not-for-profit industry?

Any new knowledge, research or information I gain always has a direct benefit to Indigenous peoples, be that through my own family, community, partner organisations or my own workplace.  I will embed many of the key findings from my Churchill Fellowship into training programs and tools and resources that will be made available to the Indigenous community more broadly.


What major achievements or milestones have you reached since going on your Fellowship?

I returned in September and shortly after I participated as a Judge on the Indigenous Governance Awards (undertaking site visits and assessment).  It was great to be able to share the new knowledge I had gained.  Additionally, I was impressed by the calibre of applicants and the depth with which our own people have embedded strong cultural practices into their governance.


What's next for you?

First and foremost is to take a bit of time off to recuperate from a very big year, recharge the batteries, and then start to implement some of my ideas into practice. This has already been identified as a February Strategic discussion.


More About Michelle Deshong

Michelle Deshong is from Townsville, North Queensland and draws her connection to Kuku Yulanji nation. She has completed a BA with First Class Honours in Political Science and Indigenous Studies and is working on her PhD on the participation of Aboriginal women in public and political life at James Cook University.  Michelle is currently the CEO of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute.

Michelle has worked in both the Government and NGO sectors, and has held many senior leadership roles and she currently holds a number of directorship roles in the Not for Profit sector, including the Supply Nation Board, Thirrili and the OXFAM Indigenous Advisory Council.   In 2013 Michelle was named in the Australian Financial Review/Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards.

Michelle has extensive experience in areas of leadership, governance and politics. She has a strong commitment to human rights and has also been an NGO representative on many occasions at the United Nations forums on the Commission on the Status of Women and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. She has a strong background in gender equality and works to ensures that the voices of Indigenous women are represented at all levels.

In 2016 Michelle undertook research in the USA and Canada as part of her Fulbright scholarship to develop strategies for Nation building, leadership and gender equality. She was also named as the 2015 National NAIDOC Scholar of the Year.

Read Michelle's Felllowship Report


In partnership with the Churchill Trust, Community Sector Banking is sponsoring two new Churchill Fellowships in 2019 to benefit the not-for-profit sector: 

  1. The Community Sector Banking Fellowship to identify successful approaches to developing leadership, people and culture that position the not-for-profit sector for future challenges.

  2. The Community Sector Banking Churchill Fellowship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to investigate ways in which relationships between Indigenous Peoples and communities and the not-for-profit sector can be mutually beneficial 

Find out more about the Community Sector Banking Churchill Fellowships


Applications open again on 1 February 2019 visit

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