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First Nations Future Leaders Series: Part 2

In this blog, we have the pleasure of speaking with Zhanae Dodd and Jakahn Von Senden about their experience at the First Nations Future Leaders Series.

Zhanae Dodd

Zhanae is a proud Ghungalu, Birri, Wirri/Widi, Kaanju and Wadja woman living on Darumbal country in Rockhampton, Central Queensland. She is the owner of Groove Co., which is the parent company to Yambanga Yuindi, Better Bungoo and Guyu Yumber. All of these businesses are social enterprises which focus on cultural advocacy, enrichment, immersion, reclamation, financial literacy and autonomy, women’s wellness through Indigenous practices with a focus on Pacific connection and cross-cultural collaboration.

Zhanae is passionate about her family and community, sitting on boards and research projects with a background in journalism, project management, marketing, case management and stakeholder advisement. Capacity building youth is the underpinning foundation to all her work and she always works by the mottos, "you can't be what you can't see" and "remember what you needed when you were younger, do not let that need and gap go unfilled".

How has your lived experience informed your participation in the series?

I am a proud Ghungalu, Birri, Wirri/Widi, Kaanju and Wadja woman who lives on Darumbal Country in Rockhampton with ties to Māori heritage which was lost during the stolen generation, but is now being reconnected. I have always worked in spaces where my culture is my foundation to everything I do and is a healing mechanism for others, whether it is as a Youth Justice Case Manager with a community-controlled org, working with Local Thriving Communities on co-design, in my own business or within private systems and school organisations.

I deeply understand the struggles we face as First Nations peoples, but I also understand our intrinsic strength and knowledge. I realised that these strengths and struggles are in fact shared across the wider Pacific after my initial involvement with Young Pacific Leaders and Pacific Australian Youth Association in 2022. Since then, I have been working closely with these organisations to improve cross cultural connections to capacity build across the Pacific. A great example of this is the Yambanga Yuindi initiative which my business launched this year, where six of our high school aged Aboriginal students travelled to Auckland to participate in a cultural exchange and to dance at Polyfest. It's exposure like this that can begin to build ties and pave solid foundations for our future across the pacific and especially in the First Nations Foreign Policy space.

Jakahn Von Senden

Jakahn is a Wulgurukaba man from Townsville in the North Queensland region. From a very young age he has held a deep interest in law, government, and politics, participating in youth parliaments and constitutional conventions at every opportunity. Despite being accepted into university for law/international relations, Jakahn soon decided that what he really wanted was to get into the government at the earliest opportunity. First Nations Foreign Policy is an area of great significance to him. Having recently started his career in DFAT, Jakahn is excited for the opportunities that this series presents.

How did your participation in the series support you in your day job?

As a young Indigenous Australian with experience in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have a deep interest in foreign policy as it relates to First Nations people. After working with the inaugural Ambassador for First Nations People, I believe strongly that our perspectives and experiences have a vital role to play in Australia's broader foreign policy objectives. As the oldest continuous culture in the world, and as this nation's first diplomats, Indigenous Australians are well equipped to contribute to this crucial conversation. The Government's acknowledgement of this potential is an important first step. I have always had an interest in government, and the prospect of leading, learning and partaking in the future of foreign policy was exciting.

What were your experiences on the second day of the Future23 National Conference?

Reconnecting with Ngunawal Traditional owner from the day before, Tyronne Bell, we were welcomed onto Country to begin the first day of the Future23 Conference. We, the Future Leaders Series participants, joined other young people working and studying in international affairs at the ANU National Security College. We were met with a warm welcome and address from the one and only, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, where she talked about the future of Australia in international affairs and just how important it is to have young voices heard and actioned in these spaces.

We then broke for morning tea, giving us a chance to network with the other young people in the room who had travelled to Canberra from all across the nation. It was then time to move into our first panelist session, the topic: Australian Foreign Policy: Today and Tomorrow. What a way to open up the first panel of the conference with Madeleine Flint from the Development Intelligence Lab, Chris Ellinger, Director of Geostrategic Policy Section DFAT and James Groves from the ANU Futures Hub. This panel considered the Indo-Pacific heavily and how Australia interacts and engages with it, to help strengthen stability and productivity. It was helpful to hear from individuals of all different backgrounds, ages and sectors to understand the ways in which we can measurably impact change in international affairs. After an intensive session it was then time to break for lunch, allowing us to digest both literally and metaphorically.

It was then time to jump into our Professional Development Sessions for the afternoon, which were hard to pick from given the amazing array of speakers on offer. Both sessions were brilliant and provided the opportunity to engage with professionals from all walks of life. Jakahn attended LTCOL Jamie Martin’s (ret.) session and emerged with a greater sense of what it meant to be an effective leader. Finally, to round out an incredible day, we attended the Industry Evening event. Representatives from a range of government agencies and private companies came together to provide their insights and advice on career opportunities. Another great learning, networking and development opportunity.

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