With National Reconciliation Week approaching (May 27 – June 3), and this year’s theme of ‘Grounded in Truth – Walk Together with Courage’, we would like to share some of the steps we have taken at the Churchill Trust over the past year towards an equitable and unified future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community.
Through a range of collaborations with Fellows, Indigenous organisations, new sponsors, and in conversations amongst our colleagues, we have been proactively working to encourage more Indigenous applicants, offer more Indigenous Fellowships, engage with and celebrate our Indigenous Fellows, and promote respect and understanding of First Peoples and cultures.
In addition to the numerous initiatives below, we are very happy to share the news that in this year’s application round (just closed), 3.2% of applications are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, a number that has almost doubled over the past two years. We also received a significant number of applications with projects that explore issues relating to reconciliation, cultural understanding and ways to reduce inequality.
In December 2018 Churchill Trust staff participated in a Cultural Awareness Training workshop with Evolve Communities, an Indigenous majority owned business run by Churchill Fellow Carla Rogers and Co-Director Munya Andrews.
As Carla explains, it was her Churchill Fellowship in 2002 which led to her founding Evolve in 2005, joining forces with Munya in 2011. Together, they share an ongoing vision to build culturally competent, aware workforces through programs run by respected and accredited Indigenous facilitators.
With warmth and humour, Carla and Munya shared historical, cultural and personal insights with us, encouraged our input and questions, and most importantly left us feeling inspired to learn more.
To help us celebrate NAIDOC week in 2018, three inspiring Indigenous Churchill Fellows Donisha Duff, Doseena Fergie and Eileen Van Iersel shared some of their Fellowship journeys, how their findings are having a positive impact on our Indigenous communities, and their celebrations of the significant roles that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played and continue to play in the community.
“Women are the backbones of our family and community … I definitely encourage all Indigenous women thinking about furthering their knowledge and experience to look for opportunities to expand. Your journey and insights are so valued and needed in today’s dialogue.”
“I want to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s perseverance and resilience in the past so that today’s women can face the challenges of today and in the future.”
“We need to continue on the path for reconciliation so that our future generations don’t experience the struggle that our past and present generations have, and to work and live as one. I can’t stress enough how important it is for more indigenous people to apply for a Fellowship. We need to own our learnings instead of professionals and academics learning from us.”
In July and August 2018, we partnered with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Indigenous Affairs, to present ‘Churchill Fellows in Conversation at PM&C’. Seven Churchill Fellows travelled to Canberra from around Australia to share their Fellowship experiences and perspectives in two discussion panels on crucial issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
For the first panel, ‘Changing Young Lives’, Paul Bridge, Anna Flouris and Belinda Wainwright shared their Fellowship insights into improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth. In the second panel, Stephen Bentley, Phoebe Dixon, Jane Pedersen and Pauline Brown spoke on ‘Trauma Informed Policy and Practice’.
The Churchill Fellows noted the experience as both re-inspiring and validating for their ongoing work, particularly in the bringing together of diverse perspectives and expertise around a common agenda, and as reported by staff at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Fellows’ valuable insights led to stimulating discussions that will inform future policy.
In partnership with Community Sector Banking and The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), we announced two new sponsored Fellowships for 2019 specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Through an international collaboration, ANZSOG sponsored two new Churchill Fellowships in 2019; one for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, and one in partnership with the New Zealand Churchill Trust for Māori working in the New Zealand Public Service. Both Fellowships will support First Peoples to gain insights into the practices of their peers working in international jurisdictions, and contribute to Indigenous policy, governance and administration in Australia and New Zealand upon their return.
Community Sector Banking is also sponsoring two new Churchill Fellowships in 2019. One Fellowship will support the development of leadership skills in the not-for-profit sector. The second, specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is an opportunity for an Indigenous Australian to explore positive interactions, practices and outcomes between indigenous peoples and communities and the not-for-profit sector.
Both new Indigenous specific Churchill Fellowships have attracted significant interest and promising proposals, and we along with our sponsors are excited about the future outcomes.
To acknowledge and promote a mutual respect and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their culture with the wider community, the Churchill Trust has adopted the following Acknowledgement of Country:
The Churchill Trust acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We look forward to continuing on our reconciliation journey in collaboration with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Fellows, and warmly welcome thoughts and feedback from all Fellows on our steps so far and our pathway ahead.