4.4 Youth leadership and succession planning
“Make sure you have a succession plan in place and that young leaders can contribute their new ideas now, not later. Too often charismatic leaders have been amazingly successful, but when they retire or fail in their leadership bid, the community falls apart. Leaders build for the future by mentoring youth who will carry on their good work long into the future.”
(Neil Sterritt, The trials and legacies of Mabo and Delhamuukw: Converting rights into outcomes for Australian and Canadian First Nations Peoples, Keynote presentation to Native Tile Conference, Cairns 2012, page 40)
Achieving sustainable governance is about working out the balance between the need for stability and consolidation, and the need for renewal and experimentation. This means looking at your succession planning.
4.4.1 Leadership succession: what is it and why is it important?
Definition: Succession planning is about ensuring there are experienced and well-trained leaders to guide a nation, community or organisation in the future. Leaders today need to mentor and develop the leaders of tomorrow.
The idea of succession planning has been part of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies for a long time. There have always been rules and processes for educating the next generation of leaders by passing on the knowledge, practical skills and experience they need to progressively take on leadership roles.
Today these traditional processes are under considerable pressure. Rapid changes across the globe mean that nations now need different kinds of leadership for different purposes.
This may also be the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations and communities.
For example, the kind of governance and leadership that worked for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to get them through fighting for legal rights, or to negotiate resource and native title agreements is not necessarily what will work for implementing those rights and delivering outcomes on the ground.
To meet contemporary governance challenges, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations and groups need to be able to grow their own young talented leaders, managers, negotiators and politicians, and give them real support and real roles.
IUIH’s vision for the future
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.
4.4.2 The transition between generations
Many younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people complain about the chronic under-use of their talents and enthusiasm.
Some feel they get trapped in a vicious circle of being asked by senior people to ‘stand-up and take on some responsibility’; only to be told to ‘stand down, we don’t need you yet, you’re pushing yourself in front too much’.
On the other hand, fast-tracking young leaders who don’t have the governing experience and skills to do the job yet—and do not have community legitimacy and connections—can have disastrous effects, both on them and the wider community.
The invitation and desire to serve must be supported by the capacity and confidence to do so.
Young people guiding The Marruk Project
The Marruk Project was awarded First Place in Category B of the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards. 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.
Murdi Paaki young leaders program
Murdi Paaki young leader Isabelle Orcher talks about the organisation’s young leaders program and succession planning.
Honouring elder leaders
It is important to balance the need for leadership renewal with the need to respect and recognise.
The transition of leaders from one generation to the next needs to be done with sensitivity. When you lose a leader you lose important knowledge, experience and skills.
Young leaders stand on the shoulders of elders.
In recognition of this and the enormous contribution that elders and senior leaders have made, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations and organisations are designing ways of publicly honouring them.
What can we do? Strategies for succession planning
This resource outlines helpful strategies and questions to ask to ensure you are setting up your governance for future generations to come. It also contains some great examples of what others have done.
Succession planning at NPY Women’s Council
NPY Women’s Council Chair Yanyi Bandicha and Co-ordinator Andrea Mason on succession planning, and bringing younger women into the organisation.