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Yorta Yorta leader Paul Briggs

OAM is CEO of the Kaiela Institute

and is leading Empowered

Communities in the Goulburn

Murray region. In 2016, he needed

a Jawun secondee to work with

him directly on driving change.

Simon Factor, senior consultant in

Policy, Programs and Evaluation at

KPMG, was deployed to develop

a framework to address risk and

monitor effective progress for

Empowered Communities.

The Kaiela Institute has been

supported since 2010 by 60 Jawun

secondees. Simon’s secondment

came as Paul was working hard

to build momentum behind

Empowered Communities.

Simon worked directly with him

and brought skills invaluable

to Paul at a time when he was

in pivotal discussions with the

Victorian Government:

Simon was very skilled and

very composed and confident,

but very analytical. And I think

corporate sector speak cuts

to the chase pretty quickly.

When you’re in political and

bureaucratic speak it gets a

bit blunt. It’s hard to pin it

down. Simon was really good

at pinning it down.

Paul wanted to gain Victorian

Government support for a state-

of-the-art Indigenous sporting,

cultural and education precinct

in Shepparton—the proposed

Munarra Regional Centre of

Excellence. Long a vision of Yorta

Yorta leaders and the community,

Paul envisages Munarra as ‘a

pivotal piece of infrastructure that

will underpin the prosperity of

Indigenous people’.

Simon was in Paul’s office when

a critical phone call with the

Victorian Government took place:

The conversation wasn’t

really going anywhere. They

didn’t know what they were

doing and I wasn’t able to tell

them what to do. But Simon,

who was just listening in—I

hadn’t even introduced him

as being in the room—gave

a bit of a cough and said,

could he make an observation,

and he quickly directed the

agenda. He reassured the state

government representative—he

reflected back to them what

they were trying to do, gave

comfort to them about getting

involved, and positioned the

feasibility and the business

case development.

The project had been stumbling

and this was a turning point. Simon

was able to ‘translate political

bureaucratic speak for us’ and

articulate clear steps for both

sides. This was vital for securing

commitment based on mutual

understanding, but also—in the

game of elephant and mous

e 15


showing that the Indigenous side

of the negotiating table knew what

they were talking about:

I reckon we would not have

gotten Munarra as far as we

have got it today without that

critical observation of Simon’s

in that telephone conversation,

and his translation, like a

corporate view of how to

approach it. I think it was good

for state government to hear

that we had those skills around

us. Because it gave them

confidence; and it actually

said, you can’t bluff us. That

was really good.

Simon returned to Sydney and

KPMG, but stayed in touch with

Paul. He prepared a proposal that

secured state funding for a scoping

study for Munarra, essential

for the project to progress but

something the Kaiela Institute had

not been able to achieve in nine

years of consideration. The study

brought the Kaiela Institute and

community organisations together

with the Victorian Department of

Premier and Cabinet, the Greater

Shepparton City Council and the

University of Melbourne to discuss

and plan Munarra collectively for

the first time. As a result, Paul

and Simon secured $200,000 in

state funding to develop a formal

business case for Munarra.

Paul continues to progress plans

for Munarra, with a series of KPMG

secondees who are supporting his

work and vision.

Simon later sought Paul’s advice

when he decided to return to

Indigenous-led development

work in a senior policy developer

role at Inner Sydney Empowered

Communities. Paul supported him,

knowing the move would be of

enormous value to his peers in

Sydney, and to Simon:

The secondment was a sort

of reawakening for Simon,

seeing the value of what we

were doing and the value of

his role in it. I think maybe we

tapped into his spirituality.

There’s a friendship now

that’s about understanding

and respect.

Simon has been back to Goulburn

Murray several times as a friend

of Paul’s and an Empowered

Communities colleague. The two

men talk about the reform agendas

in both regions, comparing ideas

and exchanging advice.

Paul Briggs and Simon Factor—

skilled support for leadership