U&R Chairman makes BOSS 2018 True Leaders

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Sean Gordon is on a quiet mission. Despite a calm manner, the Indigenous businessman and Uluru Statement signatory has a set a frenetic pace in advocating for and working to deliver proper recognition of Indigenous people’s place in Australian society and acknowledgment of their connection to the land.

The former Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council boss has established the Gidgee Group, promoting Indigenous employment, and serves as chairman of the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association Dance College (NAISDA).

He is also on the board of the Uphold & Recognise non-profit organisation, and part of the Empowered Communities, Empowered People leadership group.

Much of his work is advocacy, bringing together Indigenous leaders, governments, employers and industry. Gordon is part of a new generation calling for an end to failed policies imposed without consultation or respect. He mobilises business, culture and storytelling to end the “soft bigotry of low expectation”.

'Not going to get us anywhere'

“We know that continuing to do what we have done to date is not going to get us anywhere. Nothing changes if nothing changes,” he says.

Even before quitting the Liberal Party in 2017 in response to Malcolm Turnbull’s rejection of the Statement from the Heart, Gordon was no stranger to controversy.

Proudly Wangkumarra and Barkindji, he attracted headlines for publicly questioning the impact of Australia’s landmark 1967 Aboriginal rights referendum.

Today he says laws affecting Indigenous Australians are not achieving their aims because the voices of his peers are missing from government.

“Let us take responsibility for our future, let us be empowered and help develop policies on a range of issues we feel are important and the government ultimately decides to support or otherwise,” Gordon says.

Decades behind

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Gordon got his hands dirty creating new vocational education programs for the NSW TAFE system and advising the state government on strategies for better adult education.

He says Australia is decades behind other countries in celebrating first cultures.

“A post-Indigenous-recognition Australia will seek to strengthen its identity by embracing our 65,000-year Indigenous history and weave our culture into the very fabric of our society through arts, language, dual naming and acknowledge Indigenous ways of knowing and doing,” he says.

Judges’ comment: “Sean Gordon worked tirelessly during the constitutional recognition campaign. Now he is raising funds to expand the NAISDA college to create an international artistic and cultural learning hub. He has achieved a lasting impact.”


This article was originally published online on 2 August in the Financial Review.

Uphold & Recognise