When Amos Taylor signed on for the AGSM Emerging Indigenous Executive Leaders Program (EIELP), he wasn’t sure where this new learning opportunity would take him. Now studying a double degree in arts and law at UNSW, he was inspired to rethink his future, with a focus on his own culture and identity as an Indigenous person.
Amos was with his most recent employer, Crown Resorts for over 14 years. But after his EIELP experience, he took the plunge and resigned from his role as a Senior Surveillance Operator to return to university after permanently deferring over a decade ago.
“I'm back studying, to educate myself and learn more, and use the networks and skills that I’ve built through the EIELP to assist my community,” Amos says.
“I’m calling this return to studies my personal redemption arc. It feels great to come back to where I started.”
The EIELP is designed to provide executive level leadership development to high performing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander managers. Amos was grateful to be put forward by his then employer Crown Melbourne and at first, he wasn’t sure what he would gain from the experience.
Amos says being in the company of so many bright, talented, supportive and proud Indigenous people was extremely impactful.
“It was the first time I'd spent time with such a large amount of successful Indigenous people. All the other courses that I'd been on were more about the coursework. Whereas I really feel like EIELP was also about identity.”
“Of course, being AGSM there was a strong focus on business principles, leadership skills, and project outcomes. But there was a massive focus for me on understanding how to be yourself in the context of being Indigenous and successful in business and walking in those two worlds. That's what really resonated with me,” Amos says.
In 2019, his EIELP cohort was able to travel interstate, to complete a module in Melbourne, then Amos travelled to Sydney for two other modules and had the flexibility to study online when it suited his schedule.
This all fit in extremely well with his life and work commitments and made the experience even more enjoyable.
However, Amos’ program highlight was the ‘life-changing’ module completed at Uluru. He had a serendipitous conversion with fellow participant and NAIDOC Sportsperson of the Year 2019 Shantelle Thompson, that spurred some deep self-reflection long after coursework had finished.
“Shantelle and I had a very meaningful talk during our Field of Lights walk. She was probably the first person to ever challenge my own journey and what I was doing to make other Indigenous people’s lives better. A lot changed for me between 2019 and now, and I would say that this was due to that walk at Uluru during the EIELP. The ancestors called and I chose to answer.”
Amos says before the EIELP he wasn’t sure how to bring the Indigenous part of himself to the workplace and make it an asset. Along with the management and leadership learning outcomes of the EIELP, he saw the chance to ‘own’ that part of his identity and use it in a positive way.
“I was deepening my cultural awareness and it allowed me to see the opportunity in work and in life to show up more, identify more, be myself and try to do better for my community,” he says.
This personal and professional growth wouldn’t have been possible without the network of support that was created over the nine-month course duration.
“The network has been invaluable to me. I now have genuine relationships with so many successful Indigenous people, who give you advice through their lived experience. I may not have met these people any other way and I cannot imagine my life without them now.”
And having just started a Bachelor of Arts and Law degree at UNSW Sydney, Amos says his EIELP cohort are behind him every step of the way.
“On my first day at law school someone wrote in our EIELP 2019 cohort group chat, “You have all of us with you there in spirit Amos,” he says.
With an interest in both native title and film studies, Amos is following his passions while also looking for a meaningful way to contribute to his community.
“I’m part of the Kija tribe from the Kimberley, around the Halls Creek area in Western Australia, and I have been exposed to native title through my connection to that land. With my law degree, I’m exploring working in this area of law with them. I can see a path that way,” he says.
“But I've always been interested in film, which is one of my connections to my Indigenous heritage and storytelling. I just really believe they are a great medium to connect with people. Especially when it comes to educating Australians about Indigenous history and culture.”
A university-wide approach to Indigenous excellence
Amos’ experience with the EIELP didn’t just inspire him to take the plunge into a career change, it is also the reason why he chose UNSW for further study. Amos says his experience as an Indigenous person while studying at AGSM was so positive and thoughtfully considered, it was hard for him to select another place to study. After completing UNSW’s Nura Gili pre-law program, he made the decision to move from Melbourne to Sydney and commence his degree in 2021.
“Through AGSM and EIELP I already had exposure to UNSW’s legacy of Indigenous learning programs. I very much believe in the principles of the course and how the facilitators believe in bringing Indigenous people together in this way,” Amos says.
“It's a productive, thoughtful and innovative way to reconcile Indigenous people and bring Indigenous minds together. And showing that it can be successful and sustainable.”