The “True” Value of Indigenous Australians; it ain’t boomerangs!

Virtually every medium to large workplace in Australia purports the value of diversity. Almost every employment application selection criteria for a public sector position asks the applicant to explain and document their acceptance of the value that diversity brings to the workplace. The short explanation of why this is the case is because it is recognized that a wide variety of views will be superior to the views of a single “type” of person.

Something that I believe is overlooked by corporates, Government and indeed society is the immense value that the Indigenous Worldview can bring to the leadership of our country.

In my discussions with people from all walks of life, this value is overlooked. Any discussion of the strengths of Indigenous people invariably turns to boomerangs, art and didgeridoos. While boomerangs are cool, the art is unique and powerful and you cannot beat the sounds of a traditionally crafted didge in the hands of an expert player; this is the tip of the iceberg of what is truly valuable, and what we can learn from our Indigenous mates.

The true value is the Worldview. A Worldview which includes a connection to the country and the community along with a forward-thinking approach which is far superior to the way in which the western capitalistic models operate. Capitalism is a very good model in many respects, it fosters innovation and drives the human race to achieve great things. However, the capitalistic model also has its flaws as it relies on unrestricted growth in consumerism, at any cost. Success is measured by the amount of money a person or company or Government can make in a short period of time. Company profits are measured quarterly, the election cycle is fast and this means that short termism plagues the decision making of our leadership in all areas of society. We now use words like “sustainability” or “CSR” or “long term” however we are really only just coming to terms with what they really mean.

If we could learn from our Indigenous mates and integrate their world view into the leadership models of our companies and societies we can all prosper as a society. The “West-Knows-Best” theory has been debunked and we all understand the TRUE value of diversity is to have ALL voices heard and to work together for all of our benefit.

Here are some brief examples and thoughts:

– I have had it explained to me that Indigenous culture measures success by their ability to provide for the community, not only now, but for millennia to come. So rather than exploit a resource for short term gain until it is depleted, it is managed so that it will provide for future generations.

-The health of a person is also measured by the health of the community. Imagine the benefits to the health care system if rather than treat symptoms of patients as they present themselves, we treated families (and communities) in a way which reduced the symptoms in the first place.

– Indigenous culture thinks forward, sustainability is not a buzz-word, it is a natural consequence of the Worldview.

This is just the start of what can be learned.

Are we not in dire need of this type of leadership?

Of course I am not saying that all Indigenous Australians think the same, just as I would not say all non-Indigenous Australians think the same.

So what to do about this?

I know I am stating the obvious when I say that there is a power imbalance, but we need to get as many Indigenous men and women into leadership positions as possible; into the boardrooms of our companies, into our political system and into our NGO’s. However there is a catch; these people need to be there in a way which encourages the valuable world view that they offer to flourish. Unfortunately many Indigenous people get into leadership positions by assimilating and in a way, pretending not to be indigenous. This is not where the value lies and we as a nation need to start understanding and learning from the oldest living culture as it makes good business, political and societal sense.

Instead of sitting around thinking of ways to help fix “their” problems, we need to turn the mirror around and realize that it is a collective Australia which needs help to fix “our” problems.