Enter the ‘Dragon’s Den!’

This year, from 29 September to 4 October, the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy held its first national conference. Throughout the week 40 young people aged 15-18 learnt about how to create lasting change in their communities; from identifying an issue, developing a vision for change and then coming up with the solution.

On the final day they got to pitch their ideas for change to a ‘Dragon’s Den’.

For those who have not seen the show, the dragon’s den is where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a hostile panel of potential investors. For this Dragon’s Den, the panel was made up of people from a number of community and youth organisations. I was lucky to be among them.

As I was watching their presentations I was struck by the fact that all of these young people were talking about changes, not just for them or for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but for Australia. From reducing cyber bullying, to addressing malnutrition among school students, to providing safe and fun things for young people to do at night as alternatives to drinking and taking drugs.

It was also amazing to hear how young people are grappling with what it means to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and how to keep their culture strong. One presenter recalled advice given to him by an elder; “If you want to keep culture, you have to give it away”.

He wants to share and celebrate the traditional and evolving parts of his culture with all Australians in order to keep it strong.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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