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NAIDOC Week message from ANZSOG Dean and CEO Adam Fennessy

3 July 2023

News and media


NAIDOC week 2023 poster - For Our Elders

NAIDOC Week 2023 celebrations and events are being held across Australia from 2-9 July this year to celebrate and recognise the histories, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  

This year’s theme is For Our Elders – to show respect to the people who are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders and hard workers across First Nations communities. 

The NAIDOC organising committee says: 

“We draw strength from their knowledge and experience, in everything from land management, cultural knowledge to justice and human rights. Across multiple sectors like health, education, the arts, politics and everything in between, they have set the many courses we follow.  

The struggles of our Elders help to move us forward today. The equality we continue to fight for is found in their fight. Their tenacity and strength have carried the survival of our people. 

At ANZSOG we are helping that fight for equality by working to create public service institutions that include the perspectives of First Nations, and their knowledges and culture into their work, and have First Nations representation at all levels. 

It is an exciting time to be doing this work. We are seeing rapid, and long overdue change in Indigenous policy, with the adoption of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in Australia and through the New Zealand Public Service Act 2020 putting a new emphasis on genuine partnerships and shifts of power from governments to First Nations people and communities. 

Debates in Australia around The Voice and the movement towards Treaty negotiations with First Nations in nearly all jurisdictions promise fundamental change in how governments relate to First Nations. 

ANZSOG’s First Peoples to All Peoples Conference in Meanjin, Brisbane in March 2023, brought together over 800 in-person attendees from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, plus 300 more online, to hear First Nations speakers talk about what is working and what needs to change. 

The conference was an opportunity for me and our organisation to listen directly to the voices of First Nations people, many with first-hand experience in designing and delivering Indigenous-controlled services to communities. 

I found it both profound and impactful to hear strong First Nations perspectives on the necessity of power sharing, co-design and co-management, and the need for genuine engagement, not consultation. This was combined with demonstrations of the strengths of First Nations communities, their understanding of their own needs and their capacity to look after themselves. 

As well as the conference, 2023 has seen ANZSOG launch a new program, Working with First Nations: Delivering on the Priority Reforms which will equip public servant’s skills, mindsets and capabilities to understand these changes and work effectively with First Nations peoples and communities.  

This is in addition to our work to weave First Nations perspectives and knowledges into all our education programs, because we recognise that this is essential for all public servants. 

We are also providing direct support to emerging and current First Nations leaders through initiatives like our ANZSOG First Nations public servant scholarships. 

In NAIDOC week, and throughout the year, ANZSOG stands with the First Nations of Australia and supports their aspirations for a just and equitable relationship with non-Indigenous Australians, and for control over their own lives.   

Improving the lives of First Nations communities remains the great unfinished business of Australian governments. Doing so will require structural and cultural change in government, and ANZSOG will continue to work to make these changes happen.