Meet Andrew Jackomos, a NAIDOC Week interview

In celebration of NAIDOC Week, we speak with Andrew Jackomos, Executive Director of the Aboriginal Economic Development branch within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.  

Yorta Yorta/Gunditjmara man Andrew Jackomos is a highly respected leader in the Victorian Aboriginal community. Having worked in the public service for many decades, his impact on Aboriginal Victorians, particularly in the fields of employment and diversity has been significant. During NAIDOC Week, with this year’s theme ‘working together for a shared future,’ Andrew’s focus is on Aboriginal employment quotas.  

"What drives me is challenging the status quo, and ensuring the many opportunities I’ve had during my life can be passed on to others," he explains.  

"As an Aboriginal person, you’re not an individual alone in the world. You have collective responsibility to your family, to your clan and to the community. You have a responsibility to stand up and make a difference. My passion is seeing our young people succeed as leaders and champions in their own right."

Andrew made national history in 2013 when he became Australia’s first Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People. As Commissioner, he was responsible for advocating for the provision of State Government services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, particularly to the vulnerable children in contact with the child protection and youth justice systems.

“I witnessed daily the impact of unaddressed inter-generational trauma, continuing racism and outcomes of economic and social disadvantage and saw the damage poor service delivery can cause,” says Andrew.  

"But I also saw the positive impacts of education outcomes and employment for Aboriginal people; saw the strength of culture and connection to country and to our Elders; and saw what a difference self-determination can make in improving lasting outcomes for our most vulnerable children and young people."

His appointment earlier this year to lead the newly created Aboriginal Economic Development branch in the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) will provide more opportunities for Aboriginal people across the state.  

A priority for him is employment and particularly, attracting more Koori job-seekers into the Victorian public service.  

"The Victorian Government has set a two per cent Aboriginal employment target for all departments," he says.

He believes DJPR has the potential to become an employer of choice for Aboriginal people.  

"For DJPR to become a role model, we need to provide evidence that this department is a culturally safe place for Koori workers and a supportive organisation in which Koori staff can grow and excel. And we need to move thinking away from ‘Aboriginal people can only be trainees and cadets’: they can also make their mark as high-calibre managers and outstanding executives."

"Sadly, there remains a degree of ignorance and racism in the broader community that impacts the socio-economic health and wellbeing of not only the Victorian Koori community, but also the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community across the nation," he says.  

He encourages everyone to call out racism for what it is, and not allow institutional racism to hamper job opportunities. "We very much have the same aspirations and dreams for our children and families as other Victorians. We want to have careers and prosperity, we want to own our own homes, and we have children who want to be successful and good people. But we want to enjoy these positives while celebrating community and connection to country."

His link to country is unshakeable. "No part of my work is done in isolation from our connection to country and community: it’s what drives me to achieve, to make a difference," Andrew continues.  

"It gives me great pride and strength to know that I’m a man who has connection to this country from the commencement of time. I’m proud to be not only an Aboriginal man but a descendent of the great Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara warriors of days past: we stand tall on the shoulders of our ancestors." The Yorta Yorta people are the traditional inhabitants of the land on both sides of the Murray River in North-Central Victoria.  

NAIDOC week, which can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s who sought to increase awareness of the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, is an important time for all Victorians to consider their role in acknowledging, supporting and celebrating the voice and contributions of the Aboriginal community in this state.  

The 2019 NAIDOC theme ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth: Let’s work together for a shared future’ is particularly relevant given the Victorian Government’s commitment to work towards Australia’s first Treaty.  

Andrew makes the powerful point that Aboriginal economic development is a vital component in Victoria’s economic productivity and competitive advantage.

"When we have a strong and prosperous Aboriginal community, we will have a much stronger Victorian community. Simple."

Visit the NAIDOC Week website for more.