Successive Secondments and the Value of Shared Learning

Background

The Ngarrindjeri people own a deeply significant site at Pomberuk Le:wunanangk on the bank of the Murray River in Murray Bridge. The area has been identified as a suitable place to locate a new Health, Business and Cultural Centre. The vision for the centre is to be a place for sharing history and culture, and a central location for the Ngarrindjeri Nation to govern its healthy future. The centre will celebrate Ngarrindjeri resilience, leadership, uniqueness, and creativity, and provide a place for Ngarrindjeri to create their own economic sustainability as they move forward on the road to true empowerment.

The precinct will explore the relationship between Ngarrindjeri and non-Indigenous Australians and provide education about what it means to be Ngarrindjeri past, present and future.

Approach

The Ngarrindjeri Nation recognise the strengths and talents of their people, and desire for them to be able to build upon these without fear, illness or poverty standing in the way. The centre will be a mechanism for community to support one another on the path to a better life, a stronger culture, and a happier Nation.

To progress this desire, Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (MACCHS) CEO Steven Sumner conceived of a central place where community could come together to share and promote Ngarrindjeri knowledge in a way that enabled better outcomes for all people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Through the support of talented Jawun secondees from 2020-21, the Health, Business and Cultural Centre concept was brought to life, with successive secondments resulting in an impressive Master Plan document to bring change, growth and opportunity for the Ngarrdinajeri Nation.

Outcomes

In Round 1, 2020 Kristen Robinson from the Department for Veterans Affairs worked closely with Moorundi staff, community and leaders to develop an initial proposal for the concept. With the impact of border closures and lockdowns due to COVID-19, Kristen returned to the ACT to complete her secondment virtually. Kristen grew her experience in planning and executing a project and presenting to external stakeholders, while gaining fantastic insight into the Ngarrinjderi community. Of her time with Moorundi, Kristen commented:

This has been a truly incredible opportunity. Although it has been cut short a little and been disrupted [due to COVID], I believe the things I have seen and heard will change both me, and the way I do my job, forever.”

Using the My Jawun platform, Phil Layton (Australian Taxation Office) joined Moorundi as a virtual secondee in August 2020. Phil expanded upon Moorundi’s concept proposal, integrating key data to build a strong case supporting the anticipated positive impact of the centre on the community’s health, wellbeing, connectedness, and economic opportunities. During his secondment, Phil gained insight and connection to the Ngarridnjeri Nation’s aspirations, reflecting:

”I can take my experience into my current job and perform better. The secondment had a great effect on my self-worth – I felt I was contributing to something worthwhile with a positive community impact.”

In early 2021, Jayson Bricknell (Westpac) joined the Moorundi team as a part-time virtual secondee for 12 weeks. Building upon Kristen and Phil’s work, Jayson focused on developing a Strategic Plan which recognised the changing needs of community and the flexibility required to allow for growth and ongoing support of staff members. Jayson and Steven developed an excellent rapport, working with the whole staff group to shape the new plan, which was endorsed by the Moorundi Board just prior to the end of Jayson’s secondment. Of this process, Steven commented:

”The Strategic Plan developed in partnership between Board, Senior Executive and Staff truly reflects the future direction of Moorundi from a Strategic and Operational Level. Input at all levels has allowed the Strategic Plan to implement necessary processes and protocols to drive the direction of Moorundi from past failures and successes and now reflects current outcomes and deliverables.’

In Round 2 2021, Moorundi were fortunate to have Arnjali Amarasingham (Services Australia) as one of the first secondees back in place in the Lower River Murray region. Arnjali worked closely with the staff to develop a future-proofed team structure endorsed by the Board. To assist the team with this transition, Arnjali developed a ‘toolbox’ of ideas, templates, and activities, with a focus on supporting a positive and future-focussed organisational culture. Following Arnjali’s secondment, Barrie Paynter (SA Government, Education) and Heather Rogers (SA Government, Treasury & Finance) continued the work on Moorundi’s team structure in Round 3 2021, with a particular focus on leadership roles and responsibilities.

In Round 4 2021, the focus returned to the Master Plan, with Ben Weidenhofer (SA Government, Trade & Investment) and Peter Buckingham (Westpac) completing in-place secondments to transform the document into a portfolio of resources designed to enhance Moorundi’s vision for the new centre – focussing on the health, wellbeing, cultural practice, employment and economic opportunities for the Ngarrindjeri Nation. The impressive suite of collateral developed will be used to excite and engage community, stakeholders, and potential funders in the development of the Health, Business and Cultural Centre. Of both Peter and Ben’s secondment, Steven highlighted:

“Everything Peter and Ben have done will contribute to significantly shaping the future in a positive manner. The HBC Centre must be the basis for creating systemic change that will lead to sustainable economic opportunities in the future for Ngarrindjeri.”

Next Steps

Throughout the year, Steven continued consultation with Traditional Owners, community, City of Murray Bridge Regional Council and potential funders regarding the Master Plan to gain valuable input, feedback and importantly, support.

Once final consensus on the location and development has been agreed upon by all stakeholders, the next steps will be the transition of the coordination and planning for the HBCC from Moorundi to a HBCC steering committee to develop community governance structures and seek funding and development approval. We are excited to support the community on this journey and look forward to the day of the first sod turned!