March 19, 2019 19:08:56
Marion Scrymgour has wide experience in government and the private sector. (ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)
The embattled Northern Land Council (NLC) has appointed its fourth chief executive in five months: respected former Northern Territory Labor MLA and minister Marion Scrymgour.
She is the first woman to ever hold the role in any of the four land councils of the Northern Territory.
Most recently Ms Scrymgour has been a career chief executive, working in the top jobs at two Aboriginal-controlled health organisations, and the Tiwi Islands Regional Council.
The appointment follows months of turmoil at the organisation.
“Aboriginal people that live in the Northern Land Council region need this organisation to be functioning and to be focusing on their ne, rather than inwardly focused,” Ms Scrymgour told a press conference on Monday.
The former NT education minister, attorney-general, and deputy chief minister, Ms Scrymgour was the first Indigenous woman — hailing from the Tiwi Islands — to be elected to the NT Parliament when she won the seat of Arafura in 2001.
In her new role at the NLC, she acknowledged the organisation has been predominantly run by men.
“Knowing that I follow in the footsteps of some giant men who have been in this position, I know I’ve got big shoes to fill, but I think I’m more than up to the challenge,” she said.
“Hopefully we can go forward now and give some stability; it’s in the interest of Aboriginal Territorians that we do that.”
Ms Scrymgour named Aboriginal housing as one of the biggest and most pressing issues in the Top End.
“I think it ne the Northern Territory Government back at the table with the Commonwealth Government, in the interest of Aboriginal people living in remote communities,” she said.
“It doesn’t need either Government to be standing away from Aboriginal people.”
But as she was still speaking, NLC deputy chairman John Christopherson abruptly ended the media conference.
“Alright that’s it … no more [questions] on policy issues,” he said, before turning to Ms Scrymgour and apologising for having “cut [her] off”.
Marion Scrymgour and John Christopherson (both centre) of the Northern Land Council. (ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)
‘Boys club’ mentality rife amongst land councils
Aboriginal leader Gina Smith was the first female deputy chair of the Central Land Council (CLC) in the Northern Territory, and resigned in 2012.
“I just found it challenging in there as a female, you had lots of males,” Ms Smith said.
“My thinking and my vision was around, ‘how do we get everybody’s work to resolve any issues we had?'”
She said both women and men were needed to come up with solutions.
“Sometimes there were issues that if certain men didn’t find important, they wouldn’t back it; you always had to push for it,” she said.
Ms Smith said she believed land councils across the Territory were slowly acknowledging the need for more women in leadership roles, and that the issue required women to put themselves forward, too.
“Women had to challenge themselves to put themselves up for [leadership positions],” she said.
The appointment of Ms Scymgour to the top job at the NLC was “an exciting time”, Ms Smith said.
“It’s a very special appointment for a female in any role as a CEO; my advice to her is stay strong and do a great job,” she said.
“I believe us women have slowly built our confidence up in challenging roles.
“I see it in our politicians and our CEOs at big companies, and Aboriginal organisations are no different.
“Women need to be encouraged more to work alongside each other.”
CLC chair Francis Kelly said the appointment of a woman to the Northern Land Council‘s top administrative position was a historic achievement and a win for equality.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion congratulated Ms Scrymgour on her “significant” appointment.
“Marion has served Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Territorians over a number of decades and is a good choice of leader to take charge of the NLC at this crucial time in the organisation’s history,” Minister Scullion said in a statement.
He said he had the “greatest confidence in her capacity to serve”.
“The NLC is one of the most important organisations in the Territory and has a critical role representing Aboriginal people in the Top End and delivering better outcomes for Indigenous communities,” Minster Scullion said.
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