Corinne Hodson – Collaboration in Practice

Background

Corinne Hodson is a proud Ngunnawal / Wiradjuri woman with family links to the Riverina region of NSW. Her childhood was spent growing up in the Pilbara region of WA, whilst continuing to connect with her family in NSW. Corinne made the move to NSW on a permanent basis at 20 years old, pursuing a career in community engagement and project management across Sydney, Newcastle and regional NSW. Corinne has been living with her family on Darkinjung country in the Central Coast region of NSW for the last 8 years.

Corinne brings her experience in community engagement to her current role as the Community Engagement Manager for the Barang Regional Alliance – ‘Barang’ is the Empowered Communities backbone organisation, as well as the NSW Local Decision Making (OCHRE) representative body for the region.

Corinne sits on the boards of the Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Service and Central Coast Community Council and also teaches part-time in the faculty of Health and Community Services at TAFE. Corinne is passionate about the support and development of Aboriginal young people in her community and the development of leadership pathways for these youth.

Emerging Leader 2019

Corinne was a participant in the Jawun 2019 Emerging Leaders program, bringing together eight emergent community leaders from across the country. This experiential program included corporate experience, a machinery of government masterclass and ‘on-country’ immersions whilst exploring the theme, ‘how enterprise and economic development is leading to empowerment’.

In recent reflection of the benefits of the Emerging Leaders program, Corinne shared the benefit she derived from, “access to corporate partners, Aboriginal communities, organisations, and individuals that have proven success in creating strong and robust Indigenous business models and practises, and is granting me the access to develop my own skills and networks to work within my own community”.

This case study showcases examples of how Corinne has drawn on these networking and influencing skills, back in her community working on both local and cross-regional initiatives.

As Corinne learned through the Emerging Leaders program, “I hadn’t realised how much of a leverageable skill that networking was until I saw this in action during the Canberra Masterclass”. As an experiential program, during this Masterclass, Corrine and her fellow Emerging Leaders had the opportunity to meet and engage with senior politicians, public service members and their advisors – afterwards Corinne reflected on a learning from these sessions that, “Influence isn’t always about having a connection with the decision maker, but sometimes it is about ‘influencing the influencer’ ”.

This personal growth and development through the Emerging Leaders program was observed by the Jawun program lead, Wayne Dagger who observed, the “Canberra government masterclass validated growth I had seen in Corinne’s confidence as she felt very comfortable in the environment of her cohort and the executive government leaders the group were exposed too”.

Approach to Collaboration

Corinne’s role at Barang requires a strong focus on engagement across all segments of the local community – including the Aboriginal, business and government communities – both to understand the needs, requirements and service gaps of her community, but also to share the message of structural reform that is being delivered by Barang under the federal Empowered Communities and NSW Local Decision Making programs.

As part of Empowered Communities, Barang belongs to a network of Indigenous led alliances in 10 regions across Australia. They share a mandate to independently seek local community outcomes, whilst collaborating as a network to drive transformational reform through the empowerment of Indigenous communities to create a balanced partnership with Government and corporate Australia.

Over the past year, Corinne has focussed on two particular initiatives: the establishment of a Central Coast Aboriginal Data Network; and attempting to establish collaboration across the country with the aim of collating and sharing the Empowered Communities regional learning and development needs and training opportunities.

Central Coast Aboriginal Data Network

Corinne has been instrumental in establishing the Central Coast Aboriginal Data Network. This network brings together regional Aboriginal controlled organisations, non-Indigenous service providers and government and NGO supporting partners, working towards achieving regional data sovereignty – with outcomes including data access, data management and establishment of a regional data set, enabled by technical upskilling and Aboriginal participation opportunities.

Julia Curtis, EC Central’s Data Director explained that Corinne, “has been able to effectively build a coalition of Aboriginal organisations in a way that there is direct discussion about data issues without getting stuck in the technical details, which is opening up the conversation to a much wider range of community stakeholders”.

Julia Curtis also remarked that, “Corinne has moved from being uncomfortable talking statistics, to chairing the genesis meetings for the emerging Central Coast Aboriginal Data Network”. 

This network has currently met twice, with a Terms of Reference and governance structure defined, and network priorities being defined and planned for delivery through the implementation phase.

Shared EC Learning and Development needs and training

Recently on a broader scale, Corinne has been leading the coordination of identifying common learning and development requirements across the Empowered Communities network, leading to a series of shared training opportunities including staff from across the network of Empowered Communities backbone organisations.

From the EC Central team perspective, Julia Curtis described Corinne’s approach, “she saw an opportunity in the COVID 19 lockdown to increase discussion and sharing across EC, got agreement to it and then moved to implementation. From this work Corinne went on to do further training in use of on-line mechanisms for facilitating outcomes which she is actively using to maximise her impact”.

Corinne was able to lean on the national network that she has established, reflecting that, “Emerging Leaders program gave me relationships at a national level – a network that I access all the time to see what work others are doing in their regions”. This focus on building upon the connections and network established during the Emerging Leaders program has continued, with Corinne reporting, “I have worked really hard to continue to build on my networking and connections that I have made as a result of involvement in this program”.

Learnings and Outcomes

Corinne is supporting the Barang Regional Alliance on their reform journey through community engagement – not just her own local Aboriginal community, but through leveraging her regional and national network and relationships.

Corinne and her colleague, 2017 Jawun Emerging Leaders program alumni Gary Field, have successfully established and delivered the Central Coast Aboriginal Youth Summit in 2019 and 2020 – bringing together Aboriginal young people from across the coast to connect with culture, identity and each other. The youth networks developed from these summits will support the development of the next generation of Aboriginal leadership on the Central Coast.

In seeking funding and support to deliver the 2020 Youth Summit, Corinne drew upon her learnings from her time in Canberra where, “I learnt that people can only say ‘No’, so you might as well just ask – and be upfront about why you are asking. This allowed me to successfully seek funding for the Youth Summit earlier this year, amidst the impact of the bushfires on many people”. When reflecting further about what had changed to unlock this learning, Corinne acknowledged that, “I never knew you could just ask. I had always been worried about how I would be perceived – who I would offend or let down – whereas now I give myself permission to ask”.

Indigenous data sovereignty is a developing focus area for Barang and other Empowered Communities regions delivering upon their reform agendas. The Central Coast Aboriginal Data Network’s journey is just beginning but will strengthen Barang’s ability to access and use regional data – for both the analysis of needs and the measurement of outcomes as they deliver on their regional priorities.    

At the conclusion of the 2019 Jawun Emerging Leaders program, Corinne reflected, “I think it is really important to build networks and to share resources and experience. I would use this as an opportunity to learn about what is happening in other regions, find out about solutions to similar issues and also develop partnerships”.

Corinne has achieved this and more.