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The Need for Leadership to Address White Supremacy in the NGO Sector

14 June 2018 at 8:53 am
Luke Michael
Charities and not for profits need to show leadership to address the issue of white supremacy in the NGO sector, a prominent Aboriginal writer and activist believes.

Luke Michael | 14 June 2018 at 8:53 am


The Need for Leadership to Address White Supremacy in the NGO Sector
14 June 2018 at 8:53 am

Charities and not for profits need to show leadership to address the issue of white supremacy in the NGO sector, a prominent Aboriginal writer and activist believes.

Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer and activist who spoke on a panel at the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) 2018 Summit on Wednesday.

She was joined by Victorian ombudsman Deborah Glass OAM, Will Stracke from the Victorian Trades Hall Council, Reason Party leader Fiona Patten, and Centre for Social Impact CEO Kristy Muir.

The panel discussed the “shifting nature of leadership and the role of citizens to shape their own prosperous and inclusive society”.

One of the topics discussed was the need for greater diversity in leadership, particularly around race and gender.

Stracke admitted during the panel discussion that leadership in the trade union movement was “too white”.

“One of our values that we say is ‘diversity is our strength and solidarity is our power’,” Stracke said.

“And that’s about the diversity of our movement and our movement is very diverse… but I think we as a union movement [still] need more voices.

“We’ve very white in terms of our leadership and we need to get better at that.”

Patten said that a “diversity of voice” was needed in parliament also, but believed that things were getting better.

“It’s a lot better than it was three years ago, but it’s by no means perfect or good,” Patten said.

Glass agreed that leadership needed to be more representative.

“Leadership needs to be much more representative of the people,” Glass said.

“It’s not just gender, it’s race, it’s disability, it’s everything we all stand for. We can’t have leaders speaking for us who don’t represent us, who don’t look like us or don’t speak like us.”

Gorrie told the summit that people in the sector should all be trying to work themselves out of a job.

“We shouldn’t plan on retiring from the work that we’re doing. Particularly for people who work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Gorrie said.

“It’s very frustrating to see white people having entire careers where a black person could be doing it, or in organisations that exist just to exist.

“I think that’s very colonial and self-serving and it does not do us any good. [We need to] dismantle white supremacy and the patriarchy.”

Gorrie has organised an event to discuss “dismantling white supremacy in the NGO sector” at Victorian Trades Hall on 27 June.

She told Pro Bono News why she decided to create the event.

“I decided to put on that event after chatting to a number of different people that work in the not-for-profit sector,” she said.

“And [people of colour] are doing twice as much work just to survive I think.”

Gorrie said while white supremacy was found across all sections of society, it was especially disappointing to see it in the not-for-profit sector, considering the sector’s purpose to make the world a better place.

“The sector does a lot of damage to a lot of black people, who work for them but also who they work with or exist for,” she said.

“I think a lot of not for profits make a lot of money and the Indigenous Advancement Strategy was a really good example of that. Most of the money in the strategy went to non-black organisations.

“So there is a lot of money to be made in perceived black dysfunction and I don’t know if it’s possible for them to do the work they’ve set out to do if they haven’t examined and [removed] the white supremacy within themselves.”

Gorrie said charities and not for profits needed to show leadership to address issues of white supremacy in the sector.

“They absolutely [need to] and I do think it is possible. There are organisations that are already doing really good work and leading the way,” she said.

“I think it’s about having that culture in your DNA I guess. But if you only have white people on your board and if the composition of power is made up of white people, then of course the way of working is going to be white.

“It’s almost impossible to work in any other way.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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  • Noel Wauchope says:

    An important matter. Yes, it is primarily concerned with Australia’s indigenous people, and rightly so. And with a Victorian slant – good too. However, this article does promote the idea of diversity in leadership. So – this is just my own idea, and concerning the Federal Parliament. How Australia’s Leading White Anglo Saxon Males must love to keep that Section 44 in the Australian Constitution.! True, they let in the odd woman and dark-skinned person, and even Aboriginal. But that “dual citizenship” thing is making it hard to impossible for people of migrant families to become MPs.

  • Ewan Filmer says:

    Is the entire world really as simple as being black versus white? Is every political stances defined by the colour of your skin? Do all black people speak with one voice?

    Does Ms Gorrie have the only possible view on this topic? She definitely uses the term “white supremacy” in a very muddled headed way. So many corrupt governments in the African continent consist of entirely black officials.

    • Daniel says:

      Thanks for starting the comments Ewan, everyone agrees on equality of opportunity but this blatant expectation on equality of outcomes is a dis-service to the effectiveness of the outcomes. As soon as one hears the term, black, white, person of colour or gender this or that you just know merit and sincerity arent in the picture

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