Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, has spoken out about leadership, family values and how the internal machinations between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd helped spark his own political conversion in a frank and revealing interview for The Bottom Line, to be aired on Saturday 29 March at 4.00pm on Channel Nine.
Speaking with host and CPA Australia Chief Executive Alex Malley, Mundine talks at length about the difficult decision not to renew his membership of the Labor party in 2012, after years of party membership, including a stint as National President in 2006/07.
“It was something I always envisaged I’d be buried with, I’d actually put in the coffin my membership of the Labor Party and my staunch belief in the Labor Party, it’s just that in that period, that six year period of the Rudd/Gillard period, the shifting of the policies, it was not the party I actually joined.”
Following the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Coalition Government in 2013, Warren Mundine was appointed chairman of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Advisory Council. When asked what is ahead for Mundine and the Prime Minister, he tells Malley that the job at hand is no small feat,
“It is an enormous task. We believe and this is where we had a meeting of minds, that it’s not about generations…We’ll probably end up being hated at the end of the day because that’s what happens but people will look back at those reforms and they will see that we brought Indigenous people into the mainstream economy and into the global economy as well.”
Born in Grafton in 1956, Mundine grew up in the 1950s and 1960s as an Aboriginal Catholic in the western suburbs of Sydney. During The Bottom Line interview, which takes place in Mundine’s home, he discusses the early frustration and anger he felt as a Bundjalung teenager growing up in Western Sydney, and the stark contrast between Grafton, where he was born, and Auburn, where he moved with his family to live in 1963.
“I got to about 16 and I was sort of feeling a bit lost about where I fitted into society as a whole. We were pretty knock around blokes in the streets and I got into a bit of trouble and we got into drugs…we were pretty wild boys in those days. But there was a period of my time, in that four or five year period I was pretty much very lost.”
Mundine mentions the Hawke and Keating eras as one of his early inspirations to explore politics and Indigenous policy more formally in the 90s for the Labor Party. He also credits his Indigenous Bundjalung heritage for where he is today.
Recalling the 2004 election, Mundine reflects on what he calls one of the most difficult times in his life.
“If people cast their mind back, we were very much navel gazing our ourselves, really looking at ourselves rather than looking outside and looking at the Australian public and what we could do for the Australian public…
“My marriage was falling apart at the time, I was in and out of the home … Then my father died and to be quite frank my whole life just imploded and I just went into deep depression and that was a really tough period.”
Delving deeper into the difficult subject of family, Mundine opens up about the consequences of big leadership and the well-publicised family trouble he has been through whilst juggling a life in politics.
“I remember in 2006 it had to be the loneliest part of my life… I thought I was the worst bastard in the world but, in certain cases I was, you know how I destroyed my marriage and that…the effect on my kids and to my wife and family around me. But at the same time I learnt that I wasn’t a bad bloke and I had something to offer and I thought I needed to focus on that.”
Warren Mundine shares his insights with Alex Malley on The Bottom Line – Saturday 29th March at 4pm on Channel Nine.
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Warren Mundine on The Bottom Line is Episode 7 in a 24 episode series.
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