Last week I received a letter from the Prime Minister, as did 1,000 other Australians, inviting me to attend the Australia 2020 Summit to be held at Parliament House, Canberra on April 19-20.
The 1,000 delegates who will converge on Canberra for the weekend summit will be spread evenly throughout the 10 session topics on offer. I was delighted to receive the official invitation to travel to the nation’s capital and be part of the Options for the Future of Indigenous Australia session.
This session will be attended by 100 Indigenous and non-Indigenous delegates who have been recognised for their contribution in the field of Indigenous engagement and advocacy.
I must say I was somewhat amazed to see non-Indigenous people listed for this session and after viewing their names; Fiona Stanley, Frank Brennan, Jeff McMullen, Bill Moss, Bill Hart, Janina Gawler, Jon Altman and Barbara Livesey to name a few, I now understand and appreciate their inclusion for the leadership and vision they will offer on specific tops at the summit.
Some might argue that these non-Indigenous faces have robbed other Indigenous people of a chance to be present at this once-in-a-lifetime summit. While others, including the selection panel, might contend that knowledge and expertise as an exact attribute is not defined by race alone.
The other big surprise on the Indigenous summit list was the lack of representation from both the old ATSIC and National Indigenous Council (NIC). It would appear that only Rodney Dillon (Tasmania) and Klynton Wanganeen (South Australia) will take their seats at the summit table as former ATSIC Commissioners while Tammy Williams (Queensland) remains the sole representative from the now defunct NIC.
To say I was surprised to be in receipt of formal correspondence with Australia 2020 letterhead would be an understatement as I didn’t consider myself has having much of a chance at being on this hotly contested list. The reason I say that is because I’m not aligned to any particular Indigenous faction, nor am I partial to any specific interest group’s activism.
Perhaps that says more about the even-handedness of how business is done today as opposed to what transpired at Indigenous-specific gatherings in the past. This refreshing approach to Indigenous affairs may well herald a dawning of a new era.
Having said that I am nevertheless excited to be on the list and I look forward to networking with other delegates as well as being proactive in summit deliberations.
In particular I’m eager to meet and hear views from delegates whose names are unfamiliar to me from a national perspective. I’m sure their vision and vitality will resonate with seasoned campaigners like Pat Dodson, Peter Yu, Pat Turner, Shirley McPherson and David Ross as well as with prominent quiet achievers such as Hetti Perkins, Brenda Croft, Wayne Bergman, Megan Davis and Terri Janki.
The more illustrious delegates will undoubtedly revel under the glare of media spotlights but I suspect the new faces won’t be overawed by their presence and will continue to impress at the summit table in much the same fashion as they’ve demonstrated with distinction in their respective communities.
Disappointingly this is not an all-expense paid trip as delegates have been advised, or ought to have known before they were nominated, that they have to make their own way to the summit.
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