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Always a new challenge, every trail different

Recently appointed CEO of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE), Grant Cameron, is positive about the future. A Kamilaroi man with strong connections to Redfern, Grant says, “The NCIE is a unique cultural hub where people can come, learn and grow.

“I was first involved at the NCIE in 2013, through the Clean Slate Without Prejudice program led by Tribal Warrior,” Grant says. “I remember early mornings, physical workouts and yarns with young people.

“Before that, I was a tradie for 20 years. Working in the upholstery and antique restoration industry.

“I gained confidence at the NCIE, a Diploma in Community Services and work placement with the after-school youth program – 50 to 60 kids a day. I remember Friday Night Live, Oz Tag, swimming, basketball. Then a full-time position as Program Coordinator. I fell in love with the place and with the community.

“I got to experience a lot – with groups like Headspace, the Fact Tree and the Settlement. A 10-day youth leadership camp, a trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, was amazing and life-changing. I knew then that I wanted to use my life experience to try to reshape pathways for mob, to inspire and empower.

“I wasn’t tech savvy but wound up working with the Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) team, learning about robots, tablets and 3D printers, completing the in-house training and taking on a management role. Over the next five years, I visited cultural sites in Rockhampton, Townsville, Elcho Island, West Arnhem Land, schools and community centres, more than 35 remote communities.

“The basic idea is ‘tech for good’ – using computers to create archives, using drones to map and showcase country. I remember being invited to speak at a national drone conference!

“I left the NCIE in 2020 to support First Nations leadership development with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation as National Manager. I took many cohorts around Australia, but the most memorable was to Aotearoa-New Zealand for a unique cross-cultural immersion. I learned about the Māori culture – truth-telling, treaty, and trauma-informed community care. There were many ‘aha’ moments.

“So, coming back in 2023 is like I’ve come full circle. This feels right. I saw what the staff went through with the divestment, and want to praise them for their hard work, loyalty and resilience. I want to offer support, to lead and repair, to engage with key stakeholders. The NCIE is here for its members. That’s the priority.

“The vision is about consolidating programs including Young, Fit and Deadly, the School Holiday Program, Fitness and Aquatics; reactivating programs, responding to what community wants, breaking down stereotypes …”

Back in 2013, as part of the Life Program at the NCIE, Grant was introduced to mountain-biking. He took a bike home and has been riding ever since. “It’s a passion!” he says. “It’s something I really love – training and competing on courses all over the country. There’s always a new challenge, every trail is different.”

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