Home' HR Monthly : April 2019 Contents April 2019 HRM magazine 19
George Brown was 12 when his people
were given their land back. “I decided
then that whatever happened with my
career and life, I wanted to give back to our
commu nity,” says the HR manager for Wreck
Bay Aboriginal Community Council.
Wreck Bay Village, where Brown grew
up, is in the Jervis Bay Territory, an area
200 kilometres south of Sydney which NSW
gave to the Commonwealth government so
Canberra would have access to the sea. In
December 1995, its Aboriginal community
council gained title to Jervis Bay National Park
and Botanic Gardens in a joint management
plan with the director of National Parks. The
commu nity subsequently changed the name of
the park and gardens to Booderee.
At the time, Brown was a year six student
with a bright future. He became Vincentia
High School’s first Indigenous captain, played
in the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development
Team, and, after graduating, auditioned
successfully for the prestigious National
Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development
Association Dance College.
“I always wanted to make the most of my
life,” he says. After a few years, Brown decided
to change careers. In 2008, he embarked on
a Bachelor of Commerce (Management and
Marketing) at the University of NSW. The
transition wasn’t easy.
“My first couple of years had its highs
and lows. Lows to the point where I failed a
particular subject – macroeconomics – three
times. I was suspended for 12 months.”
Enter the CareerTrackers Indigenous
Internship Program. Founded in 2009, it has
What should HR look like in an Aboriginal Community Council?
George Brown returned home and found out.
BY JASMINE CRITTENDEN
helped more than 1000 Indigenous students
to undertake internships, finish degrees and
“They made me believe in myself. They
made me u nderstand that if I really wanted
to go back home and make a difference,
I needed to focus. They told me to be
accountable, to think about my choices and
actions. I remember a saying they drilled into
us, which I still say now: ‘To be on time is to
be late. To be late is unacceptable.’”
CareerTrackers put Brown into a year-long
marketing internship. He showed so much
promise, he skipped out early to take up
an assistant role in research and marketing
at Supply Nation, the biggest directory of
Indigenous businesses in Australia. From
there he jumped into the Indigenous Business
Australia graduate program, then landed a
position as a business development manager
at the National Centre for Indigenous
Excellence in Redfern, Sydney.
After just eight months, in August 2016,
a chance to return home arose. “The
Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council
[WBACC] had never had a dedicated hu man
resources manager. The board restructured
the organisation and thought there was a
need for one,” he says.
Although he hadn’t worked directly
in HR, Brown had studied best practice
during his degree. He also had management
expertise, and his insights as a Wreck Bay
local were invaluable.
To help him find his feet, the CEO enlisted
an H R consultant who provided two months’
mentoring. Since then, Brown has continued
to develop his skills through relentless training,
from a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety
to Comcare’s Supervisor WHS Responsibilities.
He’s also the recipient of a national scholarship
for the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact,
which he’s completing at the University of NSW
and the Centre for Social Impact.
WBACC was established in 1986 under the
Aboriginal Land Grant (Jervis Bay Territory)
Act 1986. Its numerous functions include
land-holding and management, provision of
community services and supporting business
enterprises. It has just over 30 full-time
employees, and Brown is a one-man band.
He manages HR for three departments:
administration, Gudjahgahmiamia Day Care
Centre, and contract services, which include
roads, building, cleaning, horticulture and the
national park entry station.
“I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I do
everything from contracts, employee relations
and performance training, to WHS and
Comcare case management. At the moment,
I’m working on reviewing workplace health and
safety and rebuilding the training management
Brown must juggle the needs of many
stakeholders. WBACC has inalienable freehold
title, but must negotiate all decisions regarding
land management with the Director of National
Parks. What’s more, the CEO reports to a
nine-person board, which in turn reports to the
organisation’s 400 or so registered members
who, under Commonwealth legislation, are the
land’s traditional owners.
“The power belongs to the community. Our
community members don’t shy away from
21/3/19 3:13 pm
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