- Opinion Piece -

Prosperity Plan Paves a Path into Goulburn Murray’s Future with Equality Central

Sam Birrell 2019

“The language, and the approach, have de-valued Aboriginal people over the last 150 years. We have an opportunity to change the narrative from a cost to society of maintaining the welfare structures, to an investment language here in our region that looks at the future of indigenous peoples, the shared culture, the shared economy and productivity of indigenous people while protecting their own way of life”.

Paul Briggs 2021

The Goulburn Murray Prosperity Plan charts a future for our region that as its centrepiece has a proposition of equality, and a clear dividend if that equality is achieved. The Plan, supported by economic modelling from Deloitte Access Economics, states that if Aboriginal people in our region have the same outcomes in quality of life, health, employment, and economic prosperity, then in 15 years from now there will be an additional $150 million Gross Regional Product generated. Achievement shouldn’t be reduced just to an amount of money, but it is one measure to show that everyone will be a winner if we can unite as a region and make this plan work. More importantly, and central to the plan’s success, is creating an environment where people ascend to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid, moving beyond a focus on safety and relationships to esteem and self-actualization. This needs the region to acknowledge and celebrate Aboriginal culture, with its strengths such as connection to place, artistic expression based on an ancient spirituality and respect for family elders. Things that could and should be incorporated into our broader regional culture.

The plan has several strategic themes, ideas that we can all put our own lens on based on experiences. One theme is valuing the Yorta Yorta identity of the region as an asset. It is perhaps when you get outside the region that you realise how big a deal this is. I’ve been at conferences in Canberra, meetings in Brisbane and Adelaide, and when I have told people I am from Yorta Yorta country there is a deference. People admire what has already been achieved here. Influential people from a range of backgrounds cite Goulburn Murray Aboriginal leaders as inspiration for their work.

Other themes involve skills, pathways, and leadership. This cuts more broadly across all young people in the region. What if kids in year 7, including some Aboriginal kids who have come to think of the Goulburn Murray economy as not having a place for them, are mentored and inspired to follow a pathway based on their interests and aptitude? It could be academic, through entrepreneurship, in trades or in art. Getting this right involves expanding and diversifying our economy, a shared responsibility for productivity and understanding the concept of cultural safety in the workplace.

The plan talks about building enduring relationships, something I see as a huge opportunity right now. There is real leadership around this plan, both among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The Committee for Greater Shepparton backs this plan because it speaks to part of our reason for being – empowerment and inclusion. It is not just important to have a strong economy in our region – that economy must work for all the people in it. In 2036, when parity is achieved, sure, the $150 million extra in the region will be something to point to, but the rightness of the social justice outcomes will help the region find peace.

The plan is required reading for all people who value the future of our region, and can be found at

https://www.kaielainstitute.org.au/current-projects.html

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Sam Birrell

Sam Birrell

Sam is the CEO of Committee for Greater Shepparton.