Feature Week 21: Community Leaders
Week 21 of the National Year of Reading coincides with NAIDOC week, so it seems appropriate to turn the ambassador spotlight on Rod Little. We are fortunate to have the support of a number of other community leaders, and we also feature two of these: Hieu Van Le, the Lieutenant Governor for South Australia and Margaret Reynolds, an advocate for human rights and disability services, particularly in Tasmania.
About Rod and his work
Rod is from the Amangu and Wajuk peoples of the Geraldton and Perth areas of Western Australia but has lived in Canberra for many years. He has a long employment history in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs holding senior leadership positions across several social policy areas in the Australian Public Service. He worked for Principals Australia, on its Dare to Lead project which works to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student education outcomes through leadership and was the CEO of the ACT Aboriginal Justice Centre.
As Chairperson of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, Rod leads the body that represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the ACT. He acts as an advocate for their interests and aspirations; and informs government on matters that impact on, or are of concern to, Indigenous people in the ACT.
Rod is also a Director for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. In this role he advocates for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights. The Congress works towards securing an economic, social, cultural and environmental future for Indigenous Australians.
Somehow, Rod finds time to sit as a Vice President on the ACT Council of Social Services and a board member of the Winnunga Aboriginal Medical Services. He is also an Indigenous Education Ambassador supported by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
Rod's hopes for the National Year of Reading
I hope to work with families and young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to use their local libraries and would love to see an Aboriginal or Torres Strait ‘Elder in Residence’ at libraries as a part of the National Year of Reading.
Rod recently spent time at the Woden Library in the ACT with Carney Chatfield and his Dad, Harold. Carney loves to visit the library most afternoons after school, where he looks for a book in the children’s section and reads it aloud to his Dad. They often use a library computer to find information to help with school assignments or play games before borrowing a DVD or book to take home. Carney has his own library card, of which he is very proud. He inspired Rod with his drawings and accompanying stories. Rod and Harold hope to encourage parents and carers to support children in their enjoyment of reading. Rod would love to see all families making use of their local libraries and parents being involved in reading to, or with their children.
Rod's reading habits
- Oral communication has been the most significant form of education for our peoples for thousands of generations. It is still a practice that is unbroken in many cases. Stories and education is critical to our peoples, particularly our young people’s cultural identity. Story telling is my preferred way of engaging as I draw from life experiences involving learning; laughter; spirituality and truthfulness.
I mainly read work related things early mornings during the week and newspapers on weekend mornings. A favourite magazine read of mine is the Aboriginal Business Magazine; successful first Australians in business are really inspiring and send good messages to our communities that dreams can be achieved.
- I am not a constant reader and there are times when I don't read at all. I tend to get tired quickly but I am persistent. It might take me a while to finish a thick book.
- I like true story books and books about my people, our history and achievements in education, business, politics and leadership. I like to read about traits of leadership that can help with my advocacy work.
- I admit I don’t use my local public library as much as I’d like and I think the last book I borrowed from our local public library was an IT book. When I do visit with my daughter I like to stay a little while.
- As a child I didn’t read a lot, there were far too many other things a boy could do. I read a few of Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ and Biggles books, but plenty of comics. I guess I liked to see pictures as well as read and imagine the characters in real life or play and pretend to be them.
Rod's favourite reads
- A favourite read is ‘Rabbit-proof fence’ by my Aunty Doris Pilkington Nugi Garimara. I deeply am inspired by the courage, love and strength of the girls in the book and the powerful truth that has help bring about understanding. Being inspired by this and other Australia’s first people’s authors, I wrote a chapter in a publication edited by Peter Read called ‘Settlement: a history of Australian Indigenous housing’. (Rod’s chapter is titled: ‘Two generations of housing in the south and mid-west, Western Australia, 1960-1995).
- Other favourite reads are Daniel Goleman’s ‘Social intelligence’ and 'Emotional intelligence’. I like these because they are helpful for better understanding people’s feelings and emotions, and their needs. I get a little lost with the science in the books but much is about common sense, empathy and compassion and having trusting relationships to enable peaceful living.
Here are just a few of the events and groups that Rod works with or supports in some way:
NAIDOC Week, from 1-8 July, celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2012, NAIDOC Week focuses on the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. To find out more about NADOC Week and what you can do to take part, go to the NAIDOC website:
- Vibe Alive
Rod is an Indigenous education ambassador, and frequently gives talks at schools. Recently, he spent time helping out at the Vibe Alive event in Port Hedland, WA where he was able to promote the importance of education.
At Vibe Alive festivals, teams of students compete in a number of areas – sport, performance, culture and art. They also take part in a health workshop, a careers expo and complete an activity booklet that brings a literacy and numeracy focus to the event. Students learn about Indigenous storytelling, arts, dance, cooking, games and other traditions.
To find out more about Vibe Alive festivals visit their website:
- Indigenous Reading Project
Rod is a supporter of the Indigenous Reading Project, a National Year of Reading partner. The project targets students aged 10 to 15 who want to read but don't have access to books. A Kindle e-reader is lent to each student and their progress is monitored over time. If they significantly improve their reading frequency they get to keep the Kindle. This picture shows Rod’s daughter Nyingari reading with one of the Indigenous Reading Project’s e-readers.
In Living Memory
To coincide with NAIDOC week celebrations, the Civic Library in the ACT is hosting the In Living Memory exhibition. It features images from the records of the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board, 1919-1966 and more contemporary images of Elders, families and communities by Indigenous photographer Mervyn Bishop.
Story telling sessions with local Elders and readings of work by Indigenous Writers’ will also take place. You can find out more about these special activities on the Libraries ACT events listing:
Take a look at the following slide show compiled by the Sydney Morning Herald for a sample of some of the images in the display:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that the images may be distressing.
To find out more about the exhibition, go to the Libraries ACT website:
Want to know more?
- You can connect with Rod on twitter:
- Select the following links to see our other featured ambassadors for week 21:
- If you want to see the other National Year of Reading ambassadors, go to our ambassadors page.
- Other featured ambassadors can be found on the ambassador feature week listing.