A local indigenous man is calling on other Aboriginal men in the community to step up into leadership roles, for the sake of the next generation of young people.
Thirty-year-old Aaron Thomas embarked on a Kokoda Trail trek two years ago as part of an indigenous youth leadership program, an experience which he said helped him realise what he could achieve.
“It was a 10-day trip and it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, physically and mentally,” Mr Thomas said.
“Coming out of that, it gives you a chance to look back and reflect on everything you’ve achieved on your journey so far, without even realising you’ve been on a journey.
“It made me want to learn more, to take on new challenges, to step outside my comfort zone…and I think that’s something other Aboriginal men need to start doing.”
Mr Thomas, a father of one and trainer driver for BHP Billiton, said he sees few Aboriginal men getting involved in leadership and training programs around the Pilbara.
“I head along to community-based programs and courses, and sometimes I rock up to things and it would be myself, another bloke and 10 other women,” he said.
“We need to see more men step up, get involved in programs and build their leadership skills, because it’s important to have a strong male influence among young people in particular.
“You might be a local footy player, and you won’t know you’re a leader, but there are young people out there who look up to you and say ‘he kicked five goals today, he’s a legend, I want to be like him’, so it’s important you can be a positive role model.”
Mr Thomas said his own personal leadership journey had been tough, but ultimately very rewarding.
“You don’t just become a leader, it’s an ongoing journey…you don’t do a certificate and say ‘there you go, I’m a leader’,” he said.
“A couple of years ago there’s no way I would have got up at a public forum to talk about leadership, but I have the confidence to do that now.“It’s been a major challenge for me to step up, but it’s been worth it, if nothing else than so my kid can look forward to a better future.”