Padninthiyangga Ngadluku Purkgku – Walking with Our Elders

The final Elders Forum for 2021 was held last week, and the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Engagement and Poche SA + NT would like to thank all who attended to hear about ‘Leadership – From the Elders Perspective’.

The event was facilitated by Professor Jonathan Craig, Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine & Public Health and Associate Professor, Simone Ulalka Tur, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous).

Photo: Ben Searcy 2021

Uncle Lewis, Aunty Pat and Uncle Richie shared their perspectives on leadership as Elders within their own community and in their positions as Elders on Campus within the University. A shared message was the importance of the listening and learning from their Elders and ancestors, which shaped their own knowledge and leadership today.  The Elders stated the sharing stories and imparting wisdom and guidance for others in their journeys towards leadership is paramount to their role.

Uncle Lewis (Kaurna, Adelaide) discussed the structure of the leadership journey, having tasks set by the Elders, performing tasks to gain a purpose, developing your purpose in order to gain leadership skills to become a future leader.

His presentation displayed themes of humility, learning from, and deferring to the wisdom and knowledge of others and espousing such wisdom as the notion that a good leader does not allow ego to cause them to feel superior to others. Uncle Lewis stated, “Leaders don’t lead with ego, they lead with humility”. He also expressed the importance of ‘Yuringkarninthi, deep listening’, of working together and not against one another.

Uncle’s final message included the advice that “good leadership means building up younger mob to move forward and teach the young so they can go forward themselves”

Aunty Pat Miller (Arrernte, Alice Springs) talked about her growth as a leader being guided by her family, particularly her Mother, Grandmother, and Aunties. Growing up under the Assimilation Policy, Aunty Pat developed a strong sense of justice and the responsibility of being the eldest child still at home, this led to developing a sense of responsibility and leadership. “I have always ensured that I lead by example and bring good intentions”.

This way of thinking has carried over into her work, serving on many committees and boards thus providing leadership in action as well as quietly guiding the community and importantly her nieces and other family members through her advice and words of wisdom.  Aunty Pat offered a final message to “make sure you go forward but don’t leave others behind. Be kind, be respectful and remember to care and share”

Photo: Ben Searcy 2021

Uncle Richard Fejo (Larrakia, Darwin) shared with us his experiences growing up with his father and grandfather showing him the ways of country and the knowledges he needed in life, known as Grandfather Lore. He advised that Aboriginal people identify positions from an early age, with Elders identifying and shaping the natural aptitude shown by young people. He talked of the importance to the development of the young of Elders caring and giving their time. In talking us through his journey, sharing this knowledge and wisdom to become an active and driven leader of his community. He also told several lovely stories as examples of family support and encouragement leading to great achievements in the family.

Uncle Richie credits those who came before as the ones who led and shaped the paths we walk on now.  The guidance and support of the Elders gave him his identity which is invaluable to a sense of belonging.  Uncle Richie stated that “Leadership to me means that when an Elder talks, you listen.” He also advised that we “look, listen, learn” but to know that when we listen, we actively record what they are saying and learn from this methodology.

Uncle Richie finished his presentation by providing us with many more wise messages to use as the tools to develop on your journey, most vitally the need to prepare the leaders of tomorrow. “Allow learners to discover for themselves by being there, make mistakes by themselves… but always under the gentle guidance of us Elders”.

The Office of Indigenous Strategy and Engagement look forward to welcoming the Flinders community to the inaugural Lewis Yarluburka O’Brien Lecture, which will be held on Wednesday 3 November. More information on this event will be provided in next weeks’ Flinders in Touch.

Padninthiyangga Ngadluku Purkgku, Leadership from the Elders Perspective is available as a recording here

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Office of Indigenous Strategy & Engagement