Carla McGrath was Indigenous X host from September 1 to September 8, 2014.
Five questions to Carla
I was fortunate to be raised in an area where access to education was abundant. My home and community environment instilled in me a sense that anything was possible. I believe it’s this, above anything, that has guided my professional and personal journey to date. That, and a willingness to seize an opportunity when it presents itself.
I now get a chance to work with people and organisations across the country to do this every day – to create environments and experiences for our mob that drive ambition based on personal choice. I can think of no better place for this than the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE), where I currently work as the head of sustainability. Indigenous excellence is personal, it’s individual.
To me, Indigenous excellence is about recognising the excellence of our past, the excellence of our resilience and survival, and the excellence that is our future possibility. I say this not to advertise my workplace, but to highlight who I am and why I’m here.
In addition to my role at NCIE I co-chair the board of the NSW Reconciliation Council, am a delegate to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, and hold board positions with the George Hicks Foundation and Flashpoint Labs.
I love finding and sharing stories and examples of Indigenous excellence in all its forms, and intend to use this week to further the reach of those stories through the IndigenousX community. Indigenous excellence is everywhere, in more ways, places and forms than most Australians know exist. We just need to know how to see it.
Another love of mine is reading, and as my week hosting IndigenousX leads up to Indigenous literacy day on 3 September, I’ll be focussing on how we engage with literacy and explore the importance of storytelling.
There are some amazing younger Indigenous women people in my life who are constant sources of inspiration, energy and support. Zoe Betar, Sally Walker, April Long, and many more. Their tenacity and drive is grounded in the contribution of those who have come before – and keeps me excited about what’s to come. Dedicated non-Indigenous women like Dr Catriona Wallace guide and inspire my professional journey in sometimes inappropriate but always fun ways.
My family are pillars of strength and resilience. Anything I have the fortune of doing is based on their support. My mother is my rock and one of the strongest people I know. My grandmother (my father’s mother) was a fierce and determined woman, highly engaged in her community and well respected and loved. My aunties, sisters and cousins are a testament to her strength.
This is not to discount the important role men in my life have played. But I can’t overstate the fire I get in my belly from being around these women.
There is an enduring sense that somehow our young people are starting from a different point to other young people, that somehow they need to play catch up before they’ve even begun. Let’s be clear: in many instances it is indicators of poverty that are barriers, not innate capability. All children thrive in a healthy environment.
It is this narrative that needs to be woven around our young people. Resilience, success and excellence need to become the self-fulfilling prophecy for the next generations of our mob. In order for this to be possible, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the heart of solutions and innovation. We have the expertise in our communities to be leading the change we want in all areas of our lives.
I am keen for us to move beyond the idea of consulting with communities, towards empowering and supporting our people to be the drivers. You don’t survive for more than 60,000 years without learning a few things along the way. This rich knowledge and experience should be valued and utilised in providing innovative, community led answers to our questions.