Team Member Reflection: James Smith
I was appointed as the Program Manager for the Whole of Community Engagement (WCE) initiative in July 2014. I was initially interested in the role because it was an Indigenous focused project combining community engagement, project management, and research. It was working at the nexus between these areas that excited me, but which I also knew would challenge me. It is simply impossible to describe my role (indeed any of our roles) in a few paragraphs…but I’ll try.
A key part of my role, as I see it, has been to provide a supportive environment for collective action – that is, working together, rather than as individuals. I'm a firm believer in TEAM - Together Each Achieves More. I'm proud of the collective culture that has been created and the relationships that will be sustained beyond the initiative. Both CDU and the communities we work with have benefited from this. A few events come to mind that reflect our collective efforts – for example the Remote Indigenous Researcher Forum; Remote Indigenous Youth Leadership Summit; and the Indigenous Leaders Conference. These events were fun and purposeful, but equally exhausting!!! In addition, the two-way learning that has occurred through the friendships and collegial relationships developed through WCE is important. They reflect genuine partnerships. We have gone further and negotiated, together, the concept of interculturality. We are unique in this regard and this has been a mighty rewarding aspect of my role - both personally and professionally. These experiences will last a lifetime and reflect the start of an ongoing journey…this is just the beginning.
Another element of my role has been partnership development and maintenance (and occasionally repair!). This has often been built on the relationships developed by that of the team. Again, teamwork has been integral to this. In the absence of a robust CDU customer relationship management system, this has been difficult. Engagement with Ministers’, school principals and councils, TOs, key partners, researchers, service providers, staff has all been part and parcel of this role. But this intersects with so many other facets of CDU business that it can be (and has been!) a logistical nightmare at times. Yet, the fruits that bear from the strong partnerships, service agreements and MOUs developed through WCE show that we have all done an exceptional job. In addition, navigating the socio-political context both in and outside of CDU has been a key element of my position. Sometimes we get lucky, other times we don't. Such is life. I can confidently say that we have influenced positive change that supports remote Indigenous communities to engage in (higher) education.
Another part of my role has been to contribute to the strategic leadership of OPVC-IL. This has not always related specifically to WCE but has often created new pathways and collaborations that benefit remote Indigenous learners. We have influenced in more ways than may be evident - through small but solid steps. We all know that remote work involves travel. I haven't completed a tally but I estimate that I have engaged in over 30 remote visits and a dozen interstate trips during my time in this role. We all know travel is taxing. A huge thanks to all staff (and their families!) for committing themselves in this way. A special thanks to those that have assisted with various administrative activities and tasks during these busy times. Your contribution is highly valued.