Michelle Deshong is well known to many for her work in Indigenous Affairs, specially leadership and governance. Michelle established her consultancy business in 2008 - Deshong Consulting https://deshongconsulting.com.au/ .  She is one of the leading voices in our country, and internationally, on Indigenous Governance and Leadership.

Michelle is not only an AILC alumni, she has also been a facilitator and has spent more than seven years as a director on the AILC board.

Michelle facilitates the Straight Talk program, she holds a BA Honours in Political Science and Indigenous Studies from James Cook University and is completing her PhD. In 2015 she was awarded the National NAIDOC Scholar of the year for her contribution to academia and community development. In 2016 Michelle received the Australian/American Fulbright Indigenous Professional Scholarship to undertake research across CANZUS countries on First Nations Leadership and Governance, particularly centred around Nation Building and Self- Determination. This was followed by a Churchill Fellowship in 2018 to continue to research Indigenous rights in a global context.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Michelle and have a chat about leadership, the role of the AILC and what the future may hold for Indigenous leadership in Australia.

AILC: How did you become involved with the AILC? 

Michelle: I had participated in the concept study consultations and I was very fortunate to be on the second ever program of AILC.    It was a timely opportunity to consider my career intentions and leverage off the fantastic network of speakers and participants. 

AILC: What are the different roles you have had with the AILC?

Michelle: Shortly after participating on the course I was invited to join the board alongside Charles Prouse who also did the same program as me.  I remained on the board for almost 7 and a half years.  

I also became a regular facilitator for the program and over many years contributed to all the courses, including the Inaugural Diploma program.  After leaving the board I was contracted by AILC to work on some of the curriculum development. 

AILC: What impact has the AILC had on your life and career?

Michelle: The AILC came at a time where I was at a crossroads with my public service career and my community work.  It helped inform my future decisions, provided critical support networks and was a contributor to promotions and new opportunities for me.  Additionally a few years later I also  undertook the Australian Rural Leadership program (to test my leadership capability outside Indigenous affairs).  The ARLF was critical to the establishment of AILC in the early days and they proved to be complementary opportunities, while also being very different.

AILC: How do you think the AILC has changed over the years? 

Michelle: I think the AILC has been through significant periods of transformation.  I have watched this from both a board perspective and a long time associate of the organisation.  At times the struggle of trying to find the right fit for the Indigenous nature of the work within an RTO compliance structure has been challenging.  In some ways this has been both beneficial but limiting in its reach.  In the early days the programs always engaged some great leaders and guest presenters and I feel like that has not remained consistent.  It would be great to tap into this moving forward.  

AILC: Why do you think organisations like the AILC are so important? 

Michelle: I think that the most important thing we can do as Indigenous leaders is to find ways to continue to influence and invest in a positive future for our people.  I think that was what the AILC set out to do in the early days and really identified a gap that needed to be addressed.  Being Indigenous led, using expertise, insight and Indigenous knowledge has to be at the core of our organisation's strength and sustainability. 

AILC: Who is a leader you admire and why?

Michelle: I have many leaders that inspire me so it is hard to pick just one.  More so I think I am drawn to leadership capabilities and behaviours that resonate with mine.  A firm commitment, passion, insight  and integrity for what they do and how they engage with others is probably what draws me to people as effective leaders.

 Thank you Michelle!