IPAA Queensland explores influence, impact, and reconciliation

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday February 27, 2020

Professor Megan Davis (centre) and Dr Chris Sarra, Director-General, Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (far right), at IPAA Queensland’s 2020 CEO/YP Breakfast. Source: Twitter

Public servants from state, local and federal governments have come together to discuss the need to focus on reconciliation and reframe relationships in the public sector.

Last week IPAA Queensland hosted nearly 600 public purpose workers at its annual Chief Executives & Young Professionals Breakfast in Brisbane.

UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Megan Davis discussed the process of reconciliation to date and the barriers to progress. She said she wanted all Australians to agree that Indigenous people have a say in the policies that affect their lives.

“Globally, the literature tells us reconciliation cannot start without two pillars being addressed: truth and justice,” she said.

“The idea of a voice to parliament is simply to enhance the participation of Indigenous populations in policy making and bringing them to the table.”

She discussed the importance of the formation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, describing it as a “path to peace”.

“We have to get used to conducting referendums and changing our constitution – it was never meant to stay the same,” she said.

“This is about an agreement about the way forward. Reconciliation is a constant process…so let’s talk and move forward.”

The Uluru Statement was issued to the public in 2017. It is an invitation from First Nations to “walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”, and calls for structural reform including constitutional change.

Journalist Kerry O’Brien and Director-General of the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Dr Chris Sarra agreed that everyone, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds, must play a part in the path to reconciliation.

“If every person in this room, in their position of influence, were committed, and all walked out of this room taking a genuine path to reconciliation — imagine the impact that will have,” O’Brien said.

Sarra reminded attendees that individuals collectively make up a system, noting that events such as IPAA’s help individuals “flick the switch” to having a deeper understanding.

“Events like this trigger a cognitive shift, enable us to open our minds … At some point, you will become senior executives, and you control the switch and the extent to which you see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People having the capacity to work across departments at all levels,” he said.

IPAA Queensland President Ian Stewart argued the work of the public sector is strongest when united in purpose.

“It’s only through the collective efforts of each of our sectors — whether public, not-for-profit, private, universities and professional bodies — that we can realise the kind of impactful change we’re seeking to make for our clients, communities and citizens,” he said.

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