Noongar Leadership

The South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) is the central services corporation providing support to the regional corporations to implement the South West Native Title Settlement. The Settlement is the largest native title settlement in Australian history, affecting an estimated 30,000 Noongar people and encompassing approximately 200,000 square kilometres in the South West, and has been described as ‘Australia’s First Treaty’.

SWASLC works to improve economic and social outcomes for Noongar people, to assist traditional custodians with planning, management and use of their land and waters, and to support and inspire a strong and unified Noongar Nation.

As the regional Noongar corporations work towards implementing the Settlement, there will be plenty of opportunities for Noongar leadership through various boards, committees, employment opportunities and more. Visit the SWALSC website for updates on the progress of these corporations.

Gnalla Kaartdijin, our knowledge – Noongar Leadership Programs

Prior to the South West Native Title Settlement, SWALSC was the native title representative body of the Noongar people, the traditional owners of the South West of Australia. During this time, SWALSC worked with Noongar people to progress the resolution of Noongar native title claims while also advancing and strengthening Noongar culture, language, heritage and society.

The need for the Gnalla Kaartdijin, our knowledge – Noongar Leadership Programs arose out of a series of community meetings held across the South West by SWALSC staff while listening to the needs of the community about the Native Title settlement negotiation:

These meetings were held on 24 and 25 February 2010 and attended by over 120 Noongar people from across the South West of Western Australia.  A recurring theme of the meeting was the need for both governments and Noongar community organisations to further improve standards of governance and, as a result, service delivery outcomes. Governance capacity and leadership were seen as inseparably linked. The importance of better recognising, supporting and nurturing community leaders was stressed. The opportunity to learn governance lessons from the international experience of other Indigenous nations and communities was noted.

SWALSC took on board the views of the Noongar community and recognised the need for leadership skills to create a new and more powerful future. Through the Native Title working parties and community meetings across the South West it became apparent that opportunities would increase for all Noongar people if they develop the skills needed to more effectively lead community programs through to multimillion dollar enterprises that require negotiating and maintaining complex partnerships across Local, State and Federal Governments, the corporate and NGO sectors and within international interests. On that basis, SWALSC developed a framework for a leadership/training program and presented it to a number of active Noongar Elders who gave their support for the initiative.

Noongar Leadership Business Unit

After securing funding from Woodside and Lotteries West, the Noongar Leadership Business Unit (NLBU) was set up. The Noongar Leadership Business Unit had the following five streams of core business:

•Noongar Leadership Directory
• Walk with us – Partnerships
• Program Development and Delivery
• Accreditation
• Evaluation.

The NLBU had the responsibility for managing the delivery of the Gnalla Kaartdijin Leadership Programs which were:

• Community Leadership Program and Introductory Programs
• Cultural Leadership Development
• Governance Development
• Business and Management Development
• Land Management Leadership
• Facilitator Development
• Emerging Leadership Program
• Advanced Leadership Activities.

Leadership is defined as a willingness to take responsibility for creating a positive future for all Noongar people – whether that is in the workplace, in communities or within families. Leaders are needed throughout the Noongar community to help us move towards self-determination and better lives for everyone.

Gnalla Kaartdijin Leadership Participants, Vines 2013

Gnalla Kaartdijin Leadership Participants, Vines 2013

The programs offered a range of leadership development programs across nine different aspects of leadership within the Noongar community. They were designed to offer a range of options so that people could develop leadership skills that were relevant to their daily lives and allow them to develop skills in areas of greatest benefit and interest at the best time for them.  The set of leadership programs were also designed to increase people’s ability to lead in whatever capacity they operate – at work, in our communities and/or our families. A broad range of program options included cultural leadership, community leadership and emerging leadership, through to high-end corporate governance and management.

Preparing the broader Noongar community with adequate leadership skills to successfully embrace a new and more powerful future is clearly no small task. This process represented a complex set of consultations to identify potential leaders and then develop appropriate training models to engage hundreds of individuals drawn from the six Native Title claims. It was envisaged that the Governance structure to emerge from Native Title negotiations would be seven corporate entities each with considerable civic, corporate and cultural responsibilities.

It was proposed that all participants entered the program through the Community Leadership course, and following that course each person would choose those other elements of the program that suit their needs. There were some people who were not be ready to participate in a large community-wide course at the beginning, and for these people there was a path through an introductory local community course as the way into the program.

Three leadership programs were piloted.

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