We're entering a new era of Indigenous leadership.
One where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders are not only valued, but sought after within the business sector, on the boards of ASX 100 companies, in universities, in government and as members of Parliament.
And why wouldn't we be? We bring 65,000 years of knowledge, cultures and kinship.
We've shattered colonial expectations of what it means to be Indigenous, and we're compelled to influence meaningful change - for ourselves, our families, communities and future generations.
We're ready to contribute more to the future of this nation, from grassroots leaders to the most senior decision makers.
But there's a problem. There are systemic and structural barriers excluding Indigenous people from these leadership opportunities, and government strategies are falling short.
Just look at the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and the National Roadmap for Indigenous Skills, Jobs and Wealth Creation.
These are in-depth pieces of work about improving Indigenous outcomes, but they fail to put meaningful steps in place to improve the one thing that will get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through that door in the first place: a Western education.
Our people are educated in our own cultures, and ways of knowing and doing.
Education in Western ways (or similar) is the bridge to building Indigenous leadership, but there's little discussion about the weaknesses of our existing education system, the impact this has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student outcomes, and how this directly impacts employment opportunities.
These discussions about the role of the education system are absent from the campaign trail.
They're absent from federal reviews, committees and commissions. And unlike the majority of issues facing Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike, there's no national Indigenous education peak body and no dedicated minister for Indigenous education to drive these conversations.
And there needs to be, because Indigenous education is both the problem and the solution.
In Western Australia, around one in every 200 Indigenous students who start year 9 go on to complete year 12 and receive a university entrance score of 75 or more - the minimum score for direct entry at a university in the state.
This ratio is not an outlier, but it also does not define the potential of Indigenous young people.
I build Indigenous leadership through education as chief executive officer of the Aurora Education Foundation, and I have seen how the right kinds of encouragement, high expectations and a solid network of support can propel Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student outcomes.
Over the past 10 years, we've supported almost 100 Indigenous scholars studying and teaching at top universities in the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge.
Just this year, we launched major Australia-first research initiative, RISE, to address critical gaps in knowledge about what works in Indigenous education.
We're doing this because our current high school program, which positions academic success alongside Indigenous culture, has doubled year 12 completion, tripled ATAR attainment and doubled transition to university compared to Indigenous students Australia-wide.
We are simultaneously the oldest living culture and one of the youngest populations with around one-third under the age of 15.
Soon we will see the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population reach 1 million.
This presents a significant opportunity to tap into the potential of Indigenous young people, evolve the education system to encourage stronger Indigenous student outcomes, and build a solid pipeline of Indigenous leaders.
We need to think of cultural strength, Indigenous education outcomes, and Indigenous sector leadership as one vision, valued by all Australians - and reflected in Parliament.
Regardless of who wins office on May 21, there are three ways the incoming government can ensure the next term of Parliament is more productive than the last.
First, the appointment of an assistant minister for Indigenous education would place this discussion firmly on the national agenda. Acknowledging this as an important policy area would provide a platform to address the barriers to change, and a catalyst for reforms to improve Indigenous education outcomes.
Second, an incoming government should commit to hold a Parliamentary Inquiry examining how to build Indigenous leadership through education.
This would provide a forum to debate and explore potential policy responses, while tapping into the enormous pool of wise counsel from leaders in this area and hearing first-hand from those who have found ways to inspire change.
Finally, there should be a Parliamentary network of supporters for improving Indigenous education.
A bipartisan network, drawing its membership from all parties, could help to build a common cause and a strong commitment for change.
This network of politicians, within their meeting place (the national Parliament), could engage and involve Indigenous community groups and students to promote and develop Indigenous leadership.
These initiatives could be brought into effect with the stroke of a pen, with little timing, funding or political risk for an incoming government.
And yet their impact could be enormous by providing a pathway for progress on Indigenous education reform at the highest level of policymaking in Australia.
Creating a pipeline of Indigenous leaders is a priority long overdue.
But doing so without considering the process for getting them there is an oversight we cannot afford to make.
Indigenous education is key. The next conversations need to recognise who will lead this work, who will support it, and under what structure or network - and the incoming government is a prime catalyst for making this happen.
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