NAIDOC Week 2020 – Always Was, Always Will Be.

We recognise & celebrate First Nations people who have occupied and cared for this continent over 65,000 years. Particularly this week, as part of the NAIDOC celebrations, the Leadership Victoria team acknowledges the leadership, contribution, and impact of First Nations alumni.

Troy Austin (WCLP‘07), Karen Milward (WCLP‘05), Anthony Cavanagh (WCLP‘15), Deb Walsh (WCLP’09), Laura Thompson (WCLP’18), Stephen Korp (WCLP’19), Helen Kennedy (WCLP‘98) and Kylie Belling (WCLP‘17) in particular for the ongoing guidance and contribution to the Williamson Leadership Program, and more broadly to Leadership Victoria, including through the Alumni Reference Group.  

I’m going to talk about this year, however, to do this means picking up a thread from 2018. During Laura Thompson’s Williamson experience she was wondering ‘How do we make change? How do we influence?’. Past participants of LV programs will know the ritual of thanking speakers with socks. Laura recalled how she was ‘in awe of the way program participants weaved a story into the socks … thanking speakers and acknowledging their contribution to a more inclusive, healthier, happier and harmonious Australia’. Plain socks moved over for a new Aboriginal design from Laura.

However, this is about more than socks. The leadership challenge to Leadership Victoria, alumni, and those who follow in future programs, is one of acknowledgement. Of the deep, rich history in this Country. Of each of us recognising and respecting First Nations peoples and of the contribution to a more inclusive, healthier, happier, and harmonious Australia for all. 

We acknowledge Laura’s leadership and also her contribution to Williamson this year as a speaker. Also, Anthony Cavanagh, opening the Williamson Welcome Retreat with a Welcome to Country to the group in Marysville and more recently speaking about the work of Ganbina, and Stephen Korp guiding the group through a workshop to understand on a deeper level the theme of Privilege. We also thank & acknowledge Stephen’s colleague Simon Penrose, Denis Rose from the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation, Larissa Falla and Rianne Hood from Ganbina, Leanne Miller, Levi Power and Lisa Thorpe from the First People’s Assembly of Victoria for the generosity of their contributions, insights and time with Williamson participants this year.

From socks have come scholarships. Catalysed by alumni from 2018 and supported by others in the LV Community, Aboriginal Victoria and Eastern Health Foundation, Williamson has a number of scholarships for First Nations people next year. They are a pathway to continued leadership, contribution, and impact of First Nations alumni for years to follow.

NAIDOC is a celebratory reminder of First Nations leadership, and that the land on which we stand – the very first footprints on this Country – belong to First Nations peoples. Always Was, Always Will Be.

– Angela Rutter (WCLP’09 and LV Program Designer and Facilitator)

Visual: This image story featured is from Stephen Korp (WCLP‘19). It represents the 40 Aboriginal languages in Victoria, with the white lines representing their path to all come together as one. Always Was, Always Will Be.

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