Youth succession planning

This page was authored by:

Michael Cawthorn Consultant anthropologist

Strong leaders and continuity of leadership are essential elements of healthy PBCs. It is important that young future leaders are identified and supported through education, training, mentoring and employment opportunities to be involved in the governance of PBCs. Involving youth in PBC governance can be challenging. In some Indigenous communities, the participation of younger people in governance and decision making is not considered culturally appropriate. Younger people may also feel shy and intimidated to accept leadership roles in organisations, or feel it is inappropriate, or disrespectful to involve themselves in decision making.

Ways in which young people can be prepared to be future leaders of PBCs may include:

  • Encouraging young people to attend meetings and become members of PBCs;
  • Staggering board elections so that directors step down progressively, ensuring there is always a pool of knowledge and experience on the board and allowing for the mentoring of new directors by more experienced board members;
  • Elders supporting young people to develop their self-confidence;
  • Providing young people with role models and leadership mentoring opportunities;
  • Providing governance training and education;
  • Focusing on developing a supportive and respectful relationship between young people and current leaders;
  • Developing internships for Indigenous youth within PBCs;
  • Educating young people about the history and politics of indigenous rights and self determination;
  • Creating youth specific governance initiatives and allowing them to be ‘youth driven’; and
  • Establishing youth-led forums and networks to identify issues and how relevant issues might be addressed (for useful resourses: AIATSIS publications and AIGI).

The Yawuru Native Title Holders Aboriginal Corporation experience

The Yawuru people are the native title holders of Yawuru country, the lands and seas in and around Broome. Yawuru have developed succession training and strategies for their young people to protect their nurture and their country in the future.

Case studies

Cunnamulla Aboriginal Corporation for Health (CACH)

Cunnamulla Aboriginal Corporation for Health aims to promote, maintain and improve the health and wellbeing of people in South Western Queensland.

The CACH Murri Network has developed a Young Elders and Future Elders program as a forum that allows the future leadership and skill development of the younger generation. The Elders of the community see this as a very important strategy to engage the younger people of their community and to ensure the transfer of knowledge from Elders onto the younger generation.

Young Elders are identified in the community as being proactive and possessing the same qualities and leadership abilities of community Elders. Future Elders are two senior students identified by their peers and school staff as being future leaders in their community. Their role is to work closely with Young Elders as members of the CACH Murri Network as well as act as advocates and a voice for the youth. By developing this strategy, the CACH Murri Network is able to encourage, develop and nurture the younger generation through mentoring and support in order strengthen their skills and aspirations to become the future leaders of Cunnamulla.

Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation

The Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) is an Aboriginal-owned and managed organisation which provides benefits to its members through running community retail stores.

The next generation of Yolŋu youth are given opportunities to become involved in managing ALPA through the Associated Director program. The Associate Director program includes two positions for young Aboriginal people to participate in the management of ALPA at a Board level. The Associate Directors are supported by the Non–Executive Directors, as well as being appointed a Mentor Associate Director, who is usually an Elder in the community with Board experience. The Mentor Associate Director assists the young Associate Directors in understanding the Board meeting protocols and processes as well as answering any questions that may arise about the content of discussions.  The Associate Directors are not given any voting rights but are actively encouraged to participate in all Board discussions.

This program ensures that young Yolŋu people are not only given the opportunity to develop valuable leadership and business management skills but that they also given a voice in how their organisation is run.

Murdi Paaki young leader Isabelle Orcher talks about the organisation’s young leaders program and succession planning.

Young people guiding The Marruk Project, here Project Manager Angela Frost and Youth Leadership Group member Bayden Clayton discuss the central role of young people in guiding the project. The Youth Leadership Group empowers young people in the Swan Hill community.

NPY Women’s Council Chair Yanyi Bandicha and Co-ordinator Andrea Mason on succession planning, and bringing younger women into the organisation.

The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) was a Finalist in Category A of the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards. Here CEO Adrian Carson describes the importance of a positive vision for the future.

Education and training opportunities

There are a range of Indigenous organisations and government and private sector programs that offer internships, training and education opportunities aimed specifically at developing Indigenous youth capacity. For example:

  • The Aurora program offers university scholarships to Indigenous students. The Aurora Education Foundation provides links to financial support and resources to assist Indigenous students to follow education and career aspirations. It also links Indigenous university students and graduates with schools to provide role models for young students.
  • Companies such as Insurance Australia Group (IAG), and Rio Tinto offer internships and career opportunities for young Indigenous people.
  • The Menzies Institute of Health research provides a range of opportunities to Indigenous school students and school leavers to provide pathways to study and employment.
  • The Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC) offers a range of accredited Indigenous leadership training programs that focus on leadership for governance.