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NT’s Leanne Liddle awarded 2024 ANZSOG First Nations Scholarship

30 November 2023

News and media


Image of ANZSOG First Nations Scholarship award 2024 winner Leanne Liddle

Leanne Liddle, a Central Arrernte woman and Director of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Unit, has been awarded the ANZSOG First Nations scholarship for 2024.

Ms Liddle will participate in the 2024 Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program with the scholarship paying full academic costs of the two-year program. She says that the EMPA will be critical to her goal of reaching an executive position in the public service.

Ms Liddle also said that the EMPA program would help her achieve her ambition to have a senior role in the public service, such as Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“When you have the qualifications people are less likely to question your credibility or challenge why you got the job. The EMPA program will validate my executive leadership skills that l’ll apply in senior environments, so I can lead more purposefully for all, but especially for our First Nations peoples.”

“My late mother said that they can’t take your qualifications or your education away from you. She never got the opportunity to access formal qualifications, but she always told us that education was the key to get to where you want to go.”

To date, the NT Government has not had an Aboriginal CEO or Deputy CEO of any government department in the NT, nor have there been any Aboriginal Commissioned Officers in the NT Police Force.

Ms Liddle said that having Aboriginal people in senior positions was long overdue and that to achieve Aboriginal representation at top levels of the public service, non-Aboriginal public servants needed to ‘create space for Aboriginal people to work along side them’.

In her current role as Director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit, based in Darwin, Ms Liddle has travelled thousands of kilometres to meet and listen to over 120 Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory, to hear the reasons for, and solutions to, the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice system.

Her work saw her become the Northern Territory’s Australian of the Year in 2022 in recognition of her role in driving a major agreement aimed at reducing Indigenous incarceration rates and improving justice outcomes in the Northern Territory. This included the implementation of an alternative non-custodial sentencing model through the Life Skills Camp for women in Alice Springs.

“I want people to know that we don’t live in a fair and just system, where everything is equal,” she told the awards ceremony in Darwin.

“I want people to know that, behind those defecit statistics of the imprisonment rates, domestic and family violence rates with children in Child Protection services, are real people. And these are the people that I’ve been charged to help, with the Justice Agreement.”

In 1988, Leanne was South Australia’s first Aboriginal policewoman. During her decade plus service, she experienced racism and abuse that she fought, and used the experience to fuel her passion to make a difference in justice. Leanne went on to complete a law degree at Flinders University with honours, and has since worked for the United Nations, and in several high-profile government roles.

Leanne is a member of the Royal Flying Doctor board for SA/NT and Deputy Chair of the Menzies School of Health and Flinders University.

This second ANZSOG scholarship is part of ANZSOG’s commitment to building capacity in First Nations administration and lifting the number of potential First Nations leaders in all levels of the public sector.

The scholarship is to help to build the capacity of First Nations leadership within the public sector and give the recipient a career-changing opportunity.

The inaugural scholarship was awarded in 2021 to Victorian public servant Brenda McDermott, a proud Palawa woman from the Manegin Community of North West Tasmania. She has recently completed the two-year EMPA program.

Ms Liddle’s manager, NT Attorney-General’s Department CEO Gemma Lake, sponsored her application saying that: ‘her dedication, expertise and leadership have had a transformative impact on our department and the broader community.”

ANZSOG wishes Leanne well in her studies and journey, to ultimately achieve her goal in the public service.