Coaching and developing First Peoples to lead

By David Major, Thirriwirri Co-Founder and Director

One of the big challenges in my career was getting through the ‘identified role’ glass ceiling. I am a Yuin-Maneroo man from the South East of NSW. When the opportunity came to step from an Aboriginal identified role into a senior mainstream role, I wasn’t confident that I had a broad enough experience to compete. Even though I had spent many years in senior management roles, this was a challenging step for me to take; but I stepped up and won the role as a mainstream Executive Director in Government.

Along with my time in Government I have also spent more than ten years running my own consulting business across Australia. This experience, working with people from all across the country, has shown me that there are so many of our mob out there who are incredibly capable and just need the confidence and support to take on senior roles.

Now with my Thirriwirri Co-Founder and Director Jason Ardler, I am eager to ‘give back’ and use my experience to support other First Nations people on their leadership journey. One of the ways we are doing that is in partnership with Executive Central in our First Peoples Leading program.

Jason is also a Yuin man. He has held senior executive roles in the NSW public sector for the past 20 years, including eight as Head of Aboriginal Affairs NSW. He also brings his experience of breaking through into senior leadership roles to this program, so First Nations communities can grow and benefit.

Thirriwirri and our partnership with Executive Central is about strengthening leadership capacity, supporting leaders with coaching and mentoring is a key to the future success of our First Nations communities across Australia. If Jason and I can play a small part in supporting our current and future leaders, we couldn’t ask for a better impact for Thirriwirri.

Our partnership developed through Jason’s relationship with Executive Central Director Glenn Ball. They worked closely together on leadership and coaching programs for Aboriginal leaders in government and non-profit sector roles and attained great results from this work, including 90% of more than 300 graduates moving to promoted roles.

Glenn is a proven leader in the field of executive coaching, and it is great to work with him and the Executive Central team.

Glenn says one of the issues he sees in his time coaching First Peoples is a lack of confidence, which I can attest to from my own experience. So, Glenn brings a focus on the skills of engagement and influence to this coaching; which is a great benefit to participants.

Some of the other unique challenges our mob face are;

  • being expected to maintain the trust and confidence of, and advocate for their community, while representing their organisations/Government;
  • and being promoted through their careers to a range of specialist First People service/program roles, without the opportunities to broaden their experiences through doing mainstream roles.

I have been asked how First Peoples Leading will be different from any other leadership coaching and development program. To me, ‘leadership is leadership’ and the majority of the content of First Peoples Leading — Executive Central’s exclusive tools, techniques and concepts for leading will be the same as that delivered for mainstream coaching. What sets it apart is that it is framed in the context and experiences of First Peoples by the team and participants.

One of the major outcomes of First Peoples Leading for me is for it to contribute to a network of First Nations leaders who can support each other in their leadership journey and in breaking through glass ceilings.

To find out more about our First Peoples Leading program email [email protected] or call 1300 737 495.

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