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Redfern Indigenous excellence centre 'stuff-up' shows why government needs to put us in the driver's seat

Guest Author -

There's no doubt Indigenous self-determination is the only way forward for our people.

The recent National Centre of Indigenous Excellence stuff-up highlights why self-determination is the only way forward for First Nations.

The NCIE was intended to be a beacon of hope for First Nations people, advocating for excellence and creating opportunities for mob.

Over time, many great programs were launched from the centre that had a positive impact in the community.

I rocked up to the NCIE in 2017 for their Indigenous Digital Excellence awards, where I was shortlisted for the Entrepreneurship Award.

You could feel there was something special about this place, the atmosphere conveyed a sense of pride for the community and the centre was one of the few landmarks still standing from the commercial development and displacement of the Aboriginal community for profit in Redfern.

But the government didn't support the NCIE sufficiently, and as a result, it was unable to flourish.

The government has shown time and time again, that it is not a good steward of our collective resources.

The recent announcement by the Federal Government's Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation to close down the NCIE and then claim it will be left open after community backlash demonstrates this, as well as countless other examples over time where public money has been spent on western systems that were not effective and did not work in order to service First Nations, such as Closing The Gap.

This disastrously mishandled situation also highlights how institutions like governments are not accountable to the people they are supposed to serve.

In this case, some senior bureaucrats decided that this Indigenous-led centre should be shut down without consulting or even informing them first â€" something which would never happen in any other sector of society without serious repercussions for those involved.

The lack of accountability does not just apply internally within government departments though.

It extends even further out into western society at large where there are few mechanisms available for First Nations community members who feel strongly about an issue such as closing down Indigenous organisations like NCIE but have no means through which their views can be heard by those responsible for making decisions about them.

The Federal and state governments cannot fix things for us.

We must do it ourselves, and we know what the solution is: self-determination.

Governments must work on giving First Nations the power to control their own funding and determine their own development roadmap if they want us to succeed over the long term because only by doing so will they be able to right past wrongs and make substantial progress toward closing the disparity gaps from colonisation.

In order for First Nations communities to have greater self-determination, they must regain control of funding and policy decisions that affect them.

Dean Foley is a Kamilaroi entrepreneur and Founder at Barayamal (Black Swan)

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