Australian Indigenous women and political leadership: a conversation with Michelle Deshong, Dr Michelle Evans and Kat Henaway

Photo of Kat Henaway, Michelle Duschong and Michelle Evans smiling
February 2022

We were delighted to host this in-conversation for Pathways to Politics between remarkable advocates and change makers Michelle Deshong, Dr Michelle Evans and Kat Henaway. In this video, they discuss the political participation of Indigenous women in Australia, initiatives designed to support Indigenous leadership, and their advice for Indigenous women who are thinking about running for elected office.

About the speakers

Photo of Michelle Deshong
Michelle Deshong BA, MAICD, ARLF Fellow

Michelle Deshong holds a BA Honours in Political Science and Indigenous studies at 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.

Michelle’s consultancy business draws on her depth of experience in both Government/Non-Government and Not For Profit. She has an in-depth knowledge of Indigenous affairs and more broadly in the mechanisms of government, advocacy and political change. Notably Michelle has also been the lead facilitator for the OXFAM’s Straight Talk program for the past 12 years and an Associate of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. Michelle continues to deliver critical leadership training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Dr Michelle Evans

Dr Michelle Evans is inaugural Director of Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership. Michelle Evans holds an Associate Professorship of Leadership at the Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) and the Melbourne Business School (MBS).

Michelle is the Associate Dean (Indigenous) at FBE/MBS and is co-Founder of Australia’s number one Indigenous Business Master Class program, MURRA, based at Melbourne Business School, founder of the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development at the Faculty of Victorian college of the Arts and Music, and founder of WALAN MAYINYGU Charles Sturt University’s Indigenous entrepreneurship Pop Up innovation hub program (2017/8). Michelle, a Fulbright scholar, has a unique combination of professional experience in management, community engagement and facilitation coupled with her excellent track record in research.

Michelle has attracted four highly competitive Australian Research Council grants, most recently to conduct a program evaluation for Indigenous preferential procurement programs.

Michelle has personally taught and mentored over 250 Australian Indigenous business people through various Indigenous business programs and serves on a number of committees nationally and internationally that focus on Indigenous advancement and rewarding excellence in engagement.

Photo of Kat Henaway
Kat Henaway

Kat Henaway is a descendant of the Mer and Mua peoples of the Torres Strait Islands. Over the past 20 years, Kat has worked for some of the world’s largest private sector companies as well as public sector organisations in Australia and the UK. 

From 2009-2014, Kat worked at City of Sydney Council commencing in the Office of Independent Councillors and later moved to Council business.  During her time at council she launched several Indigenous initiatives including NAIDOC in the City and supported the development of Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel. Kat is an Indigenous Business Advisor and was the NSW Business Advisor for Prime Minister & Cabinet’s $90m Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund 2018-19.  Today Kat is an entrepreneur, director of several Indigenous enterprises and holds leadership roles with Women & Leadership Australia and Women for Election Australia. Kat has run a number of successful workshops designed to encourage women of colour to run for elected office, including through the Politics in Colour initiative. Pathways to Politics has worked closely with Kat on a number of political candidate training workshops for women of colour.

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