A tale of two Fairley Leadership Program fellows: Katrina Mohamed and Deanne Armstrong

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Katrina Mohamed and Deanne Armstrong completed the Fairley Leadership Program in 1998 and 2017 before teaming up this year to deliver the successful Dungala Kaiela Oration.

The oration is an annual event co-hosted by the Kaiela Institute and the University of
Melbourne, celebrating Aboriginal cultural identity, while creating a shared vision for the region to promote Aboriginal social and economic development.

Ms Mohamed has worked with the Kaiela Institute since 2017, and Ms Armstrong has
worked with the Committee for Greater Shepparton since 2016.

Can you tell us about your work together on the Dungala Kaiela Oration?

Ms Mohamed: There is no way we could have created what we did with the Dungala Kaiela Oration without relationship. At the time I was just diagnosed with breast cancer, so we brought Dee on to help us. I just needed someone I could hand it over to and trust it with.

Ms Armstrong: To be asked to contribute to the Dungala Kaiela Oration event
was an absolute honour for me. I still get quite emotional about it, to be involved in something like that, to celebrate the indigenous culture and to reflect on the importance of that culture in our community.

How do you bring out the best in each other?

Ms Mohamed: I think we quickly had that sense of being able to rely on each other and that goes beyond just working together. We are both doers, give us a job and we will make it happen, that’s what we love to do.

Ms Armstrong: We have a mutual understanding of each other and we both work in a similar way. Our relationship hasn’t been a face to face relationship for long, but I think it’s that respect for each other that is important. We both understand exactly what needs to be done and we both work really well together.

What did you learn from completing the Fairley Leadership Program?

Ms Mohamed: For me the biggest learning was being exposed to all of the industry, the people and the potential. It inspired me to go "Okay, we have all of this, why aren’t we [the community] greater than what we are?". I learnt a lot of things, met a lot of people and it was good for personal development, but at the end of the day if my heart is for this place and I want to see things change, then my biggest learning is you have to work in partnership.

Ms Armstrong: Before doing Fairley I was more the person sitting behind the scenes. It really challenged me to come forward and to stand up a bit more, to be more confident in myself and my abilities. I think Fairley Leadership was a big driver in that, compared to how I was prior to doing the course.