Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt AM is a proud Noongar, Yamatji and Wongi man born in 1952 and raised on Roelands Mission, the eldest of 10 kids. My dad was a railway ganger. My mum was a member of the Stolen Generations. Hon. Ken Wyatt Yarns with Gman on Big Brekkie. How has the minister coped. Also how important is a safe culture environment within the corridors of educational institutions. Minister states, in those days, they had to get permission to marry. Permission to travel. They could be arrested if they were out after 6pm.
If the Department of Native Welfare came around and thought you weren’t providing good care, they could take your children away. We then lived in a tiny place called Nannine, just south of Meekatharra. My schooling at first was by correspondence – working a radio with a foot pedal, like an old sewing machine, for two hours at a time. Soon afterwards, my parents moved down to Corrigin. At that point, my life changed.
In 1996 Ken was awarded the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his contribution to the wider community in training and mentoring young people. Later, in 2000, he was awarded a Centenary of Federation Medal for ‘efforts and contribution to improving the quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and mainstream Australian society in education and health’.
Charles Perkins and Lowitja O’Donoghue have been exemplars for the Minister. I have always been fascinated by people who become the person who leads a group. You take attributes of good people and you learn to use them in the way you operate and the way in which you make decisions, not just for yourself but for those you are responsible for. As a Commonwealth Minister, my leadership role is a national position. However, I find that I operate on a Rotary Club ethos, and that is “service above self”. By making decisions on that principle, you will more often than not, make the right decision.
Leaders also need to understand that they will also make mistakes but you must accept that mistake, learn from it and turn it next time into a positive way forward. Leadership is about guiding, directing and taking people with you. It’s complex, yet it’s simple. In our families, our father or our mother tends to be the leader and we tend to listen and follow. We aren’t always obedient, and we get punished, but generally the principles of leadership are being in a pivotal role where you can influence those around you and influence the future - showing tough love when it’s needed but, equally, being prepared to acknowledge that others’ ideas can be different to yours.
The key things you have to attain as a leader are: • Integrity and passion but with a degree of hardness when • Gaining the respect of those you • A sense of humility and humanity, so when you make decisions it is not just about you but about the broader community of interests.
Between 1996 and 2010, he served the public in many capacities, including as Director of Aboriginal Education with the WA Department of Education, District Director for the Swan Education District, Director for Aboriginal Health with the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Health and, later, as Director for Aboriginal Health with WA Department of Health.
In 2010, Wyatt successfully stood for the Liberal Party in the WA seat of Hasluck, becoming the first Indigenous Australian to be elected to the House of Representatives. For the opening of parliament on 28 September 2010, Aboriginal leaders held a traditional welcoming ceremony for Wyatt outside Parliament House and Noongar elders presented Wyatt with a ceremonial cloak made of kangaroo hide, a bookha, which he wore as he took the oath of office. He continues this tradition of firsts by being the;
1. First person to hold Hasluck more than once (current serving his fourth term) 2. First Aboriginal person ever made a Member of the Executive (as Assistant Minister for Health) 3. First Aboriginal person ever appointed as a Minister of the Crown (as Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health) 4. First Aboriginal person ever appointed to Cabinet (appointed during Reconciliation Week 2019) 5. First Aboriginal person ever to lead the Department of Indigenous Affairs (as Minister for Indigenous Australians)
He gave his first speech in the House of representatives chamber on 28 September 2010 wearing the bookha and it is depicted in his official portrait for the Historic Memorials Collection.
In 2015, he became the first Indigenous member of the Federal Executive following his appointment as Assistant Minister for Health. On being appointed Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health in 2016, he also became the first Indigenous minister to serve in the Australian federal parliament. Learn the art of listening. Listen carefully and also listen with your eyes. And then, step forward. Be prepared to acquire new knowledge, be prepared to embrace the understandings that will help you become a better leader in any sphere of work. That’s what I have done, through accepting my limitations, but knowing that I can step outside of them in order to be a pathfinder for reform and change.