Queen’s Birthday Honours 2016
Alumni recognised for outstanding public service
Among alumni recognised in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours is Indigenous policy reform advocate and business leader Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, honoured for his efforts to enhance economic and social public policy outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people.
A member of the Bundjalung people, Nyunggai Warren Mundine was raised near Grafton and educated in Sydney and began his career as a construction apprentice before winning a position at the Australian Taxation Office. A scholarship to the South Australian Institute of Technology brought him to Adelaide to undertake an Associate Diploma in Community Development at the Aboriginal Task Force in the early 1980s.
“The Task Force launched some incredible careers, including John Ah Kit, a former Minister in the Northern Territory Government, and Tom Calma AO, Chancellor of University of Canberra,” Nyunggai Warren says.
“Going to SAIT changed my life. It changed my thinking about what I wanted to achieve and it showed me the opportunities that were out there.”
Nyunggai Warren forged a successful career spanning government, business and community service. He was National President of the Australian Labor Party in 2006-2007 and has chaired the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council since 2013. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Chairman of the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce and a Director of Nyungga Black, a consulting services focussed on Native Title, Employment and Mining and Energy.
“We’ve spent billions of dollars over 40 years and we haven’t really closed the gap. We’ve made some significant changes, people going to university and things like that, but we still need to do a lot more. If you look at incarceration rates, at the socio-economic standing of Indigenous people, they haven’t really changed. The missing link is of course economic development, Indigenous economic strategy. When I was on the executive and then President of the Australian Labor Party, whenever we would talk about winning government or retaining government we would talk about economic management. But as soon as we spoke about Indigenous affairs we switched to the welfare service delivery model and I thought that was strange.”
“So that has become my mantra in my campaign to change government thinking, to look at it through an economic lens. We know that it makes a difference in people’s lives,” he says.
The Labor Party instituted the change on focus at the National Conference in 2007 and five Prime Ministers from Howard onwards have adapted this stance.
“It was a long battle over 15 years to get that to happen.”
Among the many community organisations in which Nyunggai Warren is involved, he mentions two in particular which provide educational opportunities for young people: the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College and the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, both of which he chairs.
“Education is massively important. If we’re really going to make a difference within our community it’s about education and jobs,” he says.
“The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation has raised over $180 million for students in seven years.”
NAISDA Dance College has nurtured a wealth of talent, including its Executive Director, Kim Walker, formerly Principal Dancer at Sydney Dance Company, and Stephen Page, Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Company.
“We created an Indigenous dance school that is more than competitive on the performing arts stage. We’ve never accepted second best and always strove for excellence. It is also important for us in retaining our culture to tell our story.”
He has this message for graduate Indigenous leaders of the future.
“Tell your story, do things you love, volunteer and soak up knowledge. You can never have too much knowledge in your head.”
Other University of South Australia alumni recognised for their leadership and community service in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours include:
Associate Professor Kaye Challinger AM, Graduate Diploma Business (Health Service Management), for significant service to medical administration, to the advancement of nurse education, and to quality health care delivery.
Mario Barone PSM, Bachelor of Arts (Planning) and Diploma of Technology in Planning, Public Service Medal for outstanding public service to local government in South Australia through the provision of leadership and strategic planning.
Superintendent Mark Fairney APM, Graduate Certificate in Management, Police Service Medal for service to the South Australia Police (SAPOL).
Ian Tanner AFSM, Associate Diploma in Applied Science (Wildlife and Park Management), Australian Fire Service Medal for service to SA Country Fire Service.
Rev Dr John Cohen OAM, Master of Arts (Religion Studies), for service to children's literature, and to the community.
Jonathon Ferguson OAM, Graduate Diploma in Education (Educational Computing), for service to the Uniting Church in Australia, and to the community.
Mallika Prasad-Chowta OAM, MBA, Graduate Diploma in Arts Administration and Bachelor of Education (Home Economics), for service to the multicultural community in South Australia.
Michael Sachsse OAM, Advanced Diploma in Teaching, for service to the community of South Australia, and to vocational education.
Nadine Williams OAM, Bachelor of Journalism, for service to the print media in South Australia.