Dungala Kaiela Oration, 2017

The Ninth Dungala Kaiela Oration – Promoting Social and Economic Prosperity in the Goulburn Valley – was held at the Rumbalara Football Netball Club, Shepparton on Wednesday 5th of July 2017. Guest Speaker was Professor Marcia Langton, Associate Provost and Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor of Melbourne University.


The Dungala Kaiela “Defining Goulburn Murray” Orations celebrate Aboriginal cultural identity, create a shared vision for the people of the greater Goulburn Murray region and promote Aboriginal cultural and socio-economic achievement. The theme of this Oration series is social and economic inclusion.



The evening opened with well-received presentations from the Dungala Childrens’ Choir, led by Deborah Cheetham.

Opening Remarks

Opening remarks were given by Paul Briggs, Executive Chair of the Kaiela Institute. Paul spoke of the connection of language to spirituality, and the importance of children having access to their language, their history, a priceless gem in their learning. The partnership between the Kaiela Institute and Melbourne University is of great importance, this being the Ninth Oration. This partnership stimulates prosperity in the Goulburn Murray region through innovation, quality and seeking the optimal well being of the region.

Paul Briggs went on to say that in history, we will be measured by our actions, building with a collective, collaborative approach and directly addressing issues in Australian society. The Kaiela Institute and the Yorta Yorta nation make joint efforts in taking a creative approach to challenges. It is important to make room for cultural expressions for different people coming onto country, he said.

Keynote Address

From the margins to the mainstream:
Indigenous recovery in rural Australia

The Keynote Address was given by Prof. Marcia Langton, who has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since February 2000. In her address, Prof. Langton proposed education targets for local indigenous youth and adults that would help Greater Shepparton to close the gap sooner than other regional areas in Australia.

The Keynote commenced by addressing the history of the Rumbalara Football and Netball Club is an exemplar of leadership, teamwork, and achievement. It has a focus of empowerment. They participate in the Empowered Communities: Empowered Peoples Design Report. This Report presents the nation with a powerful vision and a means of ending Indigenous poverty and disparity. The Algabonyah Economic Community Plan – overcoming Indigenous economic disadvantage has been very well received, locally.

Prof. Langton gave an illustration of participation using two different sporting codes, the AFL and the NRL, noting that Indigenous players make up 9 percent of the AFL and 12 percent of the NRL. It shows what is possible when entry barriers are low and access is on merit, not background. It shows what is possible when the institutions involved actively welcome and support Indigenous participation—like these football codes do. It shows what is possible when they honour the dignity of their Indigenous players by being vigilant in combating racism. The lessons to be drawn from this success are not trivial.

If these traits could be equally devoted to the challenges of development, and the factors driving success with individuals, families and communities applied to wider social and economic participation in Australia, the gap on Indigenous disadvantage would soon close.



It is critical to understand unfolding paradigms. Prof. Langton illustrated, saying, “The attitudes from the assimilation era that cast Aboriginal people as permanently on the margins are changing slowly, as more Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians come to understand that rural Indigenous populations are permanent and growing and Indigenous owned service bodies provide essential services that sustain rural Australia, socially and economically.

Speaking about her recent appointment as Associate Provost at Melbourne University, Prof. Langton shared – inter alia – “I was recently appointed Associate Provost at the University with some responsibility for the partnership with the Goulburn Valley. So tonight, I want my formal contribution in this role to be a mind map of what success might look like. Some of the indications are good, and we might see success sooner that we might have imagined.

Education is the key issue to laying a foundation that brings future success and future leadership to the local community. Students must be supported to complete Year 12 and proceed to higher education. Prof. Langton shared, “ I strongly advise that the range of disciplines, professions and qualifications pursued should be as broad as possible so that full economic participation by the local Aboriginal people can be achieved. I have in mind professions such as engineering, architecture, business, accounting, commerce, medicine, dentistry, nursing, computer science, robotics, the trades, as well as the more conventional professions which have for some decades been the destination of Indigenous people, such as teaching, law, and the humanities.

Looking to statistics for Indigenous people in Shepparton from the recent Census, it was revealed that the youth population presents a number of challenges, most important of which is the capacity to ensure that they achieve high educational standards. A total of 782 under 14-year-olds will need to be educated to achieve Year 12 completion or equivalent. A further 408 persons in the 15-24-year-old age cohort with require post-secondary education.



Prof. Langton asked,

Will these younger generations have the skills, knowledge and ability to take advantage of opportunities to improve their lives and sustain the culture and identity of the Yorta Yorta people? Without high levels of educational achievement, it is unlikely. There is no valid reason why there should be any disparity in educational outcomes as between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this town. Fear and doubt are not insurmountable.
Effective leadership and teamwork make champions.

Targets are needed, and they need to be placed in front of the under-24 group; they have the opportunity to close the gap and reach parity with the non-Indigenous of their age group. Goals are needed to help them manage, inspire and persevere in their educational outcomes. Drop out rates need to be attended to and inspiration given. Prof. Langton told that rural groups of indigenous youth can achieve these goals much faster than their urban cohorts. In showing statistics, 15 years ago only 4 indigenous students completed higher education at Year 12 level.

There were 227 Year 12 or equivalent completions for Indigenous people in city of Greater Shepparton in 2011, and this represented an increase of almost 18 per cent between 2006 and 2011. In the Greater Shepparton statistical area, there were 315 Year 12 or equivalent completions recorded. We need university enrolments from this cohort, and we need to attend to the question of multiple intelligences and encourage youth to take on further education.




Indigenous students finish Year 12 in record numbers

A group of teenagers from the New South Wales central-west town of Dubbo has made history as the largest group of Aboriginal students ever to sit their Year 12 exams. The 60 teenagers attend Dubbo Senior Secondary College and many of them have had to overcome major social disadvantages.
Key points:


NB: Few Indigenous inmates have finished year 12, prison reform expert says



More Indigenous students in school until year 12, ABS says


The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the retention rate from years 7 to 12 increased from 47.2% in 2008 to 62.4% in 2017. Read more here (Opens in new page, The Guardian)


Queensland’s Indigenous students close gap on completing Year 12

Queensland’s Indigenous students are completing year 12 at almost the same rate as other seniors in the state in what has been described as a “miraculous” achievement.

A budget estimates hearing has been told 97.2 per cent of Indigenous students received a Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) or a Queensland Certificate of Individual Achievement (QCIA) in 2017, compared to 98.1 per cent of non-Indigenous students. That is up from 75 per cent in 2013. Read more here (Opens in new page, ABC News Website)


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