Leading from Between is a fascinating look at the comparison between the Indigenous people who have found themselves working in the public service in Australia, and how they differ from their Indigenous counterparts in Canada.
Authors Catherine Althaus and Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh have detailed the role that Indigenous people have played in the public sector, most notably becoming the internal driving force for change of policy inside government.
The book draws out the issues surrounding Indigenous people working in the Queensland Government between 1991 and 2011. Althaus and O’Faircheallaigh subtly point out that there is actually no data for Indigenous people in Queensland for 1991, but also show that a good portion of Indigenous people were gainfully employed during that time.
To the credit of Althaus and O’Faircheallaigh the level of detail in the book is extensive. Given that in the early 1990s Indigenous people in Queensland would not have been as warmly received into the Public Sector as they would be today, the information in the book is still able to draw a comparative study between the two locations of Queensland and British Columbia.
The book does not gloss over the history that Indigenous people have had. The text outlines the various barriers that Indigenous people have had in employment in the public sector, including the overt racism and prejudice, not just from those inside the government but at times from their own family for going to work in the government that was oppressing their people.
Detailed recounts from former Indigenous public servants help to illustrate this. Recounts by both Australian and Canadian Indigenous people are eerily similar, both explaining that despite racial slurs, the determination to move ahead is a characteristic needed to work in the sector.
One such interviewee points out that the everyday racism she encountered was as evident as overt racism.
“One Queensland respondent who had previously been a senior executive in an accounting firm recounted how he was denied responsibility for financial management decisions, which were then allocated to a non-Indigenous auditor,” an excerpt from the book reads.
The book also comments on the loneliness felt by Indigenous people in the public sector, not just because they may be the only one victim to the overt or everyday racism but also because at times the may be the “… only Aboriginal person on [the] entire floor.”
Anyone who has found themselves ostracised will be able to recognise how hard it can be to keep at something when they feel that they are alone in their pursuit.
However, Leading from Between also highlights the benefit that Indigenous people have had in the sector, by allowing stereotypes to be smashed and also the identification of ‘Non-Indigenous Allies’ and the benefit they have had on cultural change in the sector.
Leading from Between is an education on how learning from the past will foster a brighter and more cohesive future in any industry and is a well worth reading for anyone in any industry.
By Caris Duncan