The Australia New Zealand School of Government’s (ANZSOG) new conference report suggests the key to better public administration and First Peoples governance is to start by giving communities more control.

The report has been released after the not-for-profit’s conference earlier in the year in Melbourne, which brought together the minds of over 400 delegates.

Of the total 54 speakers at Reimagining Public Administration: First Peoples, governance and new paradigms, 47 were First Nations people from Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Those in attendance came from a range of sectors including the public, private, university and not-for-profit, as well as Indigenous community leaders.

Attendees explored ideas of leadership, relationships, service systems and knowledge systems over the two-day conference.

The post-conference report found that throughout the conference, four consistent messages emerged:

  • Give communities more control
  • Everyone can learn from Indigenous ways of knowing and being
  • Representation matters
  • We are all agents for change.

The report noted that communities need the funding and power to identify their needs and deliver services.

“Self-determination for Indigenous communities should not be viewed as undermining government authority … Indigenous jurisdictions can complement local, state and federal governments as partners in Indigenous public administration,” the report said.

This conclusion is particularly relevant at a time where the Federal Government is divided over Indigenous Voice to Parliament, with some Ministers labelling constitutional recognition as a ploy for a ‘third chamber.’

The report also determined that governments need to support and continue Indigenous culture, as well as ensure Indigenous representation at all levels of public service.

Another major point was that everyone has a responsibility challenge theirs and others’ mindsets to achieve change in Indigenous public administration.

The conference’s dinner saw recognition and celebration of leadership with community awards as well as cultural entertainment and a keynote address from 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes.

In his speech, Mr Goodes said leadership is a skill set that people learn.

“You can lead by being a good mentor, building strong relationships, and delivering on what you promise,” Mr Goodes said at the dinner.

The conference wrapped up with closing remarks from speakers including Michelle Hippolite, Chief Executive of Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development, New Zealand), and ANZSOG Dean and CEO Professor Ken Smith.

“ANZSOG is on a journey to improve the representation of First Peoples’ knowledge, wisdom and experiences in the work we do in our core areas of developing public sector leadership through teaching, learning and research,” Professor Ken Smith said.

“This journey is our contribution to help address the great unfinished business of Australian and New Zealand governments – improving public policy and service outcomes for and with First Peoples.”

By Hannah Cross