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Desert Knowledge Symposium 5 November 2008 1 1 Representing Others: Aboriginal Senior Officials in the Self-Governing Northern Territory Elizabeth Ganter.

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Presentation on theme: "Desert Knowledge Symposium 5 November 2008 1 1 Representing Others: Aboriginal Senior Officials in the Self-Governing Northern Territory Elizabeth Ganter."— Presentation transcript:

1 Desert Knowledge Symposium 5 November Representing Others: Aboriginal Senior Officials in the Self-Governing Northern Territory Elizabeth Ganter Research School of Social Sciences Australian National University

2 2 2 The invitation to work in government Indigenous Employment and Career Development Strategy : “Adequate representation of Indigenous people at all levels within the Northern Territory Public Sector to enable [their] effective contribution to policy and decision making affecting Indigenous people” (Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment 2002: 7)

3 3 3 Finding my interviewees 69 senior/executive Aboriginal employees reported by NTG in Dec 2006 (Admin Officer 7 or equivalent & above) - 46 in administrative/ professional positions (+23 teachers) REFERRED TO 160 POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS (contacted 115, invited 104) INTERVIEWED 76 –46 current/ 30 former employees (17 in Aboriginal organisations) –48 senior/ 28 non-senior –58 in the Top End/ 18 in the Desert (A/S, Tennant Creek + remote)

4 4 4 Aboriginal public servants in central Australia Referred to 39, invited 25 (10 Aboriginal senior public servants) Interviewed 18 –6 senior public servants currently in NTG –7 non-senior public servants currently in NTG –5 in the Indigenous sector (none had attained seniority in the NTG)

5 5 5 The work of Aboriginal public servants across the Northern Territory Encouraging Aboriginal good civic behaviour - 24% Encouraging Aboriginal employment - 21% Delivering services directly to Aborigines - 13% Aboriginal social policy – 10% Aboriginal-state relations – 9% Running Aboriginal organisations/other ngos – 9% Aboriginal culture and heritage – 5% Only 8% did NOT work in Aboriginal-specific areas

6 6 6 more NT-wide demographics Gender and age spread Equal male and female, majority in their 40s but older and younger Value education and professionally mobile More didn’t than did finish high school; a few only primary 75% have further qualifications (equal no. cert/diplomas and degrees) 42% have worked in the Indigenous sector Long-serving, experienced and not motivated by political colour of NTG 13 were employed at the time of self-gov’t 15 commenced in the 1980s (3 out of 5 A/S recruits remain) 24 between (2 out of 4 A/S recruits remain) 24 after 2001 (6 out of 8 A/S recruits remain) Sense of history At least 38% personally affected by policies of child removal

7 7 7 Predominantly Local Territorians 82% of interviewees (62) were local to the NT –47% (29) were born in remote communities (19) & regional towns (10); the rest in Darwin and Alice –87% (54) work in their region of origin –80% (50) have worked in their community of origin at some time –66% (41) work in their community of origin now

8 8 8 Representing Others ALL work in the Aboriginal interest, whether or not they work in Aboriginal-specific jobs 62% of all interviewees said they represent other Aboriginal people

9 9 9 Some ways of representing others Present and feeling for others: empathy –Self-identifying (or not) and staying; ‘who I am’ –‘Radars’, messengers between gov’t & community Conditionally present and speaking for others: advocacy –‘Spin’, protection, resistance, passing the baton Speaking to others: moral display –Role models, ambassadors, ‘use me’

10 10 Speaking to others: Role models in central Australia –‘all my family’s looking at me’ –‘show to them that you beat the system’ –‘just being a local Indigenous person: “well if she can do it” - because I’ve just normal schooling like everyone else - “we can do it too” ’

11 11 What was different about the desert? Desert-based officialsTop End-based officials 78% locally born55% locally born 22% had left NTG44% had left NTG 30% of them senior75% of them senior Drawn from 6 departmentsDrawn from 12 departments 44% civic behaviour 17% encouraging employ’t 17% Aboriginal-state relations 24% encouraging employ’t 17% civic behaviour 14% Aboriginal social policy

12 12 ‘when you’re in a discussion about an issue and you put your point of view across, that’s an Indigenous perspective’


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