The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) has awarded its inaugural First Peoples Scholarship to Victorian public servant Brenda McDermott.
McDermott, a proud Palawa woman from the Manegin Community of north west Tasmania, will use the scholarship to undertake an Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA), according to ANZSOG.
The bureaucrat is currently at the end of her secondment with the Aboriginal Economic Development Branch within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR).
“My current role is to change how government works with Aboriginal communities, develop cultural safety and support self-determination,” McDermott told ANZSOG.
“I have worked with a lot of Aboriginal people in Gippsland, it is slow work but we chip away at it, we need to bring understanding of cultural perspectives and ways of working with Aboriginal communities.”
McDermott has previously worked as a teacher, a family violence counsellor and mediator in conflict resolution, and at one point was employed by the Victorian government’s Native Title Unit.
The establishment of an ANZSOG First Peoples Scholarship was announced in February, with the aim of increasing Indigenous leadership in the public sector. First Peoples working in the public sector from Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand can apply for the scholarship, which is worth $15,000 to $45,000 and allows the recipient to undertake one of ANZSOG’s foundation programs. This includes the EMPA, the Executive Fellows Program, and Towards Strategic Leadership.
McDermott said she hoped the EMPA would broaden her knowledge of the process of government and develop her leadership, allowing her to ‘transfer that knowledge back through my networks with community groups’.
DJPR executive director Aboriginal economic development and inclusion Andrew Jackomos told ANZSOG there was a ‘significant undersupply’ of Aboriginal executives in the Victorian Public Sector.
“An important step in building the diversity of organisations, particularly government departments is to have First Peoples at every level and in every area of the body, particularly in policy development, program designers and decision makers,” he noted.
“Aboriginal peoples are critical not just in the design and implementation of Aboriginal programs and policies but also for the broader community if we claim to be a diverse community.”