Archive for the ‘Indigenous’ Category

Cockatoo’s submission to LG Indigenous Employment Green Paper

October 18, 2010

We recently provided a submission to the above exercise. The salient parts are as follows:

The document covers the key issues, especially the importance of collaboration. I believe it is the core of the solution to creating indigenous jobs, and is therefore deserving of greater prominence.

To explain, we get involved in numerous indigenous projects on behalf of our members – for example, scoping and securing funding for a Creative Arts Centre in Wilcannia, developing indigenous youth mentoring programs, finding ways of reducing airfare costs in remote areas etc. Virtually all of the projects have a need for robust collaboration, and local government can play a major role in this regard. The need for collaboration stems from four general problems endemic to ‘indigenous’ project:

1. they are often in remote areas, which means delays and difficulty in coordinating people

2. they get bogged down in the bureaucracy – the numerous agencies, strategies and protocols that are trying to improve the indigenous cause DO add to the complexity of projects and create frustration.

3. they tend to lack indigenous champions who can bring collaborative partners to the table – sensitive area but let’s just say that white fellas are pushier and more persistent in promoting their projects and ideas.

4. they often involve significant public good aspects, which is spread across the three levels of government and many agencies and programs.

This coordination problem can only be addressed by collaboration. And this requires people on the ground who are strong, persistent and skilled – and able to drive real outcomes. It’s a risky business, and not a job for amateurs. The ideal arrangement is two project managers working in tandem – one within local government and an external facilitor/consultant.

The ACELG project should highlight this problem and develop initiatives to address it.

kind regards

Rod Brown, CEO, Cockatoo Network Canberra A.C.T. Australia

US collaboration in indigenous arts

May 25, 2010

 Cockatoo member Stu Rosenfeld continues his sterling work to connect us via his CraftNet Sketches.

He informs us that the Ford Foundation has announced a new ten-year, $100 million program to support art spaces. Ford will fund art groups across the USA to create new art spaces and launch programs in new or renovated facilities. In Phase 1, grants of up to $100k are for planning facilities that support artistically innovative and culturally diverse projects to strengthen relationships between artists and communities. 

 Ford also will fund seminars related to sustaining art centers and affordable housing for artists.  “We believe that this investment in arts infrastructure will advance the well being of our communities, because artists and art spaces play a significant role in boosting local economies.”

 This has strong resonance in regional Australia. We’ve recently prepared a business plan for Central Darling Shire for a Creative Arts Centre in Wilcannia. It’s patently clear that Australian aborigines have deep-seated creative skills – borne out by studies by Regional Arts NSW which make a point about the need for back-up support for Indigenous arts groups e.g. advice on the financial, marketing, purchasing, governance aspects of running businesses.

The problem is that Indigenous people are not experienced in business and corporate governance. This was stressed in the report ‘Open for Business: Developing Indigenous enterprises in Australia (2008).’ [1] (Enterprise Connect hasn’t quite latched onto this need yet. – Editor)

[1] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

Cairns Institute – Tropical Innovation Hub

January 12, 2010

As we’ve highlighted for months, if you’re looking for federal largesse, think HUBS.

Here is another – a $44 million world-class institute dedicated to research and innovation for tropical Australia – with 125 research staff – to be built in Cairns. The Rudd Government is providing $19.5 million in capital costs, and a further $8.75 million for research infrastructure. The Institute will be located at James Cook University’s Cairns Campus, which will contribute a further $15.8 million. The focus is on marine and climate science, public health, social & community welfare, tourism & indigenous development.

The concept was first tossed around 5 years ago by CREDC – phone hook-ups with people like Tracy Scott-Rimington (CREDC) and Jim Bitomsky (Kleinhardt Consulting), followed by a concept paper used by CREDC to drum up interest. I said then that JCU had to be the champion. But things moved sideways for a couple of years, and it seems the powers within JCU had ‘internalised’ the project.

 Some salutary lessons – getting projects off the ground requires a lengthy gestation period for ideas to be worked up to a viable and agreed stage. You also need a business plan for the banks and/or government agencies. And you need political patronage – Kim Carr’s prints are all over this project.

 P.S. CREDC was axed two years ago. It was always one of the most effective RDOs in Australia – Ecofish, Super Yachts, Tourism, hosting a great TCI cluster conference etc. Tracy, Jim and I are not seeking any glory on the Hub getting up – just a wider understanding that collaboration does win out eventually.

Re-birth of Remote Region Research Body in Australia

January 12, 2010

Industry Minister Kim Carr has announced that seven Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) have been granted $130 million ($US120m) in the CRC Program’s latest selection round. The CRCs are:

  • Advanced Composite Structures ($14 million)
  • Infrastructure and Engineering Asset Management ($12 million) – for defence assets.
  • Environmental Biotechnology ($4 million)
  • Optimising Resource Extraction ($17.5 million)
  • Remote Economic Participation ($32.5 million)
  • Wound Management Innovation CRC ($28 million)
  • Vision ($22 million) – to deliver revolutionary vision care treatments for eye problems.

The most interesting is the CRC for Remote Economic Participation – to close the gap on Aboriginal disadvantage and develop economically sustainable communities in remote areas. It resurrects the Desert Knowledge CRC whose funding was flagged about 12 months ago. We are advised that Indigenous issues simply couldn’t allow the Desert Knowledge agenda to fail – the proponents were told how to recast their agenda – and voila! Jan Ferguson remains the Director, and it flies again from July 2010.  Cockatoo is proposing to work with this CRC.

Think hubs!

May 14, 2009

Industry Minister Carr has subconsciously recognised the importance of place is because he is quietly funding industry centres and hubs around Australia. For example, a mining technology centre in Mackay, a creative industries hub around UTS in inner Sydney, a defence hub in Dandenong, a clean energy centre in Newcastle.

These examples of ‘localised capability and competitive advantage’ can equally apply to social and environmental projects. Members are advised to ponder the following:

  • The feds are currently announcing a spate of local infrastructure spending e.g. $2.4 million for a 15 hectare eco-tourism precinct on the Swan River, $910k for a Marine Discovery Centre at Bondi Beach. This is smart, because the expenditure aligns with local competitive advantage.
  • The Jobs Fund is providing another tranche of relevant expenditure ($650 million) right NOW.
  • The Building Australia Fund will eventually roll-out like a latter day Super Auslink program, and the city suits will be looking for local competitive advantage, critical mass and alliance partners.

We are excited by the potential for our members to use the ‘competitive hub’ concept to get some very worthy projects off the ground. Indeed, my crystal ball shows real potential for:

  • International aid hubs e.g. Cairns, Darwin.
  • Food value-adding hubs e.g. northern Adelaide
  • Eco-tourism corridors e.g. East Gippsland, Central Ranges (Victoria), Darling Ranges.
  • Logistics hubs e.g. Parkes, Shepparton, Ipswich.
  • Historical tourism and lifestyle hubs e.g. Braidwood, Chiltern.
  • Environmental management hubs e.g. eastern Adelaide, Sunshine Coast.
  • Indigenous arts and culture hubs that actually work e.g. Wilcannia, Broken Hill.
  • Recreation, health and social service hubs e.g. Wee Waa, Port Macquarie, Port Augusta. 

 Progressing these possibilities is beyond a gopher writing an application. Contact us for further details.

Collaborator profile – Indira Singh (Thunder Bay, Canada)

October 15, 2007

 Who and where are you? 

I am a civil servant working in the Ontario Public Service. I have over 25 years of experience working in two provincial public services in eight different government departments/ministries.  I have a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Alberta, Canada.  

What’s your job? 

I am the Director of the Executive Projects Office with the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.  In my capacity as the Executive Director of the Ontario Mineral Industry Cluster Council (OMICC), I work closely with the mineral industry and provide executive and project management support to the Council.  I play multiple roles from providing strategic advice to the Ministry’s senior management and the OMICC Co-Chairs to undertake projects. 

What’s exciting you at present?

The commodities boom, the emergence of China and India as economic powers, and the growing economies of Russia, Brazil and other developing countries.  

What are your top 3 tips on how to collaborate? 
Establish a common, shared and collective understanding of the issue/project. 

Understand, anticipate and respect divergent and different points of view.  

 Ensure a consultative and participatory process where all involved are engaged and heard.  

What collaborative projects do you have that would interest Cockatoo readers?

The Ontario Mineral Industry Cluster Council (OMICC) is a collaborative body whose mandate is to make Ontario’s mineral industry cluster larger and more globally competitive. The Ontario government, and the minerals industry are collaborating to improve the mine permitting and approval process; to strengthen manufacturing base for mining services, equipment and technologies and to improve relationships with Aboriginal communities. 

Indira Singh, Executive Director, Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines 340 – 435 James Street South Thunder Bay, ON  P7E 6S7 tel: 807-fax: 807-475-1120

Fragmented social capital – Vern Hughes’ solution

January 24, 2004

Vern Hughes, of the Social Entrepreneurs Network ( gave a thought-provoking paper at University of Melbourne forum in September 2003. Salient points:

“The old paradigm still rules – a plethora of agencies dispense services to disconnected, passive and disempowered ‘clients’ using standardized programs and resources for which the agencies are accountable not to their ‘clients’, but to their funders.

The end-users or consumers are external – fashionable references to consumers and communities as ‘stakeholders’ does not alter their systematic exclusion from the financial and the accountability relationships.

It is little wonder, then, that there is an emerging consensus that this old paradigm has delivered fragmented, provider-driven outcomes which contribute little to social capital formation, community participation or end-user empowerment. However there are many micro-level innovations that are challenging this paradigm and breaking new ground.
§          ‘Person by Person’ – families of children with severe disabilities in Melbourne, sick of standardized services, negotiated with the Dept. of Human Services to have their service entitlements cashed out and administered by a budget-holder of their choice.
§          in Aurukun (Cape York) –  families pay their benefits to an indigenous credit union, with negotiated allocations to education, savings, daily living expenses. Has cut spending on alcohol drastically.
§          In Noosa, a non-school community organization has undertaken the management of a high school on a trial basis. Effectively a ‘charter school’ where control is given to a community organization with a licence to act independently in educating a mix of students. 

These innovations strengthen social capital and relationships in ways that the old paradigm cannot. A pre-condition for capacity building and the generation of social capital is the creation of civil space in which communities can allow relationships to form. The above innovations have created this space”.

Treaty of Waitangi – fascinating use of collaborative techniques

October 25, 2003

A long-standing reader, Claire Johnstone in NZ, has reported in. Are you grappling with similar issues? 

“I have has set up my own consultancy company, specialising in public and private sector work, and specifically in economic development.

Currently I am working on a project with Crown Forest Rental which is an organisation that helps Maori tribes research and achieve settlement in regard to Treaty of Waitangi claims.

To reach a settlement, my team and I need to help a cluster of five tribes agree to work together and to agree that they represent their people, and have the mandate to negotiate with the crown.

At stake is a NZ $500 million settlement covering seven forests in the central north island. If successful this will be the biggest settlement New Zealand has ever seen. Fascinating stuff this one, as it is using a new fast track method to get an early settlement”. 

Please contact Claire in Wellington at or on cell phone 0274 300 499.

Connecting with kids

December 25, 2002

Twelve months ago, I first met Melbourne-based Phil Anstey who explained his positive experience in deploying St.Kilda AFL footballers as mentors for youth.

He wondered about the prospects of developing an Australia-wide program using a spectrum of elite athletes, actors etc. Phil explained that if youths feel that they’re not in charge of their lives, they adopt aggressive and anti-social behavioural traits that further harm their employment prospects. While teachers can serve as role models, this has its limits because the school system is unnecessarily confronting and irrelevant to some youth.  

The problem usually stems from family management issues, alienation and rebelliousness, and low neighbourhood attachment – and leads to emotional disorders, substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, early school-leaving and violence.

Conversely, youth who feel connected to school and family and have positive relationships within the community are less likely to experience these problems.

Mentors can help build the self-esteem of young people, develop their leadership abilities, and thus have a direct impact on their locus of control.  Strong leadership skills place the young person in charge of his or her life. Elite athletes are an untapped resource as mentors for Australian youth. They command respect. Youth will listen and respond to them.

Contrary to popular belief, apart from a few superstars, the bulk of our elite athletes in popular sports – swimming, track and field, cycling, basketball etc. – are not well-paid, and have limited career opportunities once their sporting careers are over.   

The upshot is that Phil’s company, SportConnect, together with Athlete Development Australia (ADA), have formed a joint-venture to develop a program to promote healthy youth development. The emphasis is on teaching life skills, and increasing youths’ connection to community, school and peers.

The initiative has attracted financial support from the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services, and the Minister, Senator Amanda Vanstone. The program includes the following features:

Implementation via schools and community sporting clubs over the next 4-5 years.

§          To begin in three regions, then fanning out.

§          A focus is on the emotional health areas of self-esteem, resilience and connectedness.

§          Components  – fostering and maintaining effective team work, managing group dynamics (e.g. confidentiality, boundary issues), leadership skills, goal setting and negotiation skills, problem solving, presentation/facilitation skills, access to employment opportunities.  

Athletes such as Kyle van der Kype (athletics), Sarah Ryan (swimming), Eleanor Sharpe and Narelle Fletcher (basketball) have indicated their wish to be involved. The program will provide a career path for athletes with a strong interest in social issues, and expand to include mentors from the arts and entertainment industry.

The concept is not new – characters like Rex Hunt (of fishing fame), Jim Stynes (ex-Ireland and Melbourne AFL) and Michael Long (ex-Essendon AFL) have been doing similar good things for some years. The aim of SportConnect is to extend and deepen the activity. 

However the federal funding for the program has to be matched – support is therefore required from local and state government and socially-responsible food & lifestyle companies, utilities (telecoms, energy, water) and perhaps TV & film networks. Indeed, the latter might offer up some of their stars to complement the trained facilitators! The sponsors could be at either a national or regional level.

(This program has now finished, but we are currently assisting another Melbourne-based company to continue this work. If you have an interest in the above, please telephone us on 02 – 62317261 or email us at