Community Organising Graduate Profile: Millie Telford

March 12, 2015 | By: James Whelan

SEED dancers at flotilla_small

Millie Telford (at left in this photo) is a graduate of the 2014 Fellowship program and is currently the Director of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network.

Why is community organising an important part of the solution in my community?

People are our most valuable resource as a movement. I truly believe that if we can organise ourselves in the face of a crisis such as climate change, we will build the power it takes to create the change we need. As the National Director of the newly established Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, I feel so lucky to work alongside hundreds of young people who are taking action everyday in the growing movement towards climate justice. 

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, our communities are not only faced with the impacts of climate change but have been under stress from fossil fuel extraction for decades. Our vision is for a just and sustainable future, with strong cultures and communities, powered by renewable energy. In order to achieve our vision, we need a diverse movement of people that confronts the power structures in society to create social, political and economic change. In order to do this we need to organise. 

One story that I love telling about the beauty of our grassroots network goes back to the 2013 Federal Election when we saw young people, dressed as Nemo, in the face of federal politicians and the media throughout the campaign trail. With volunteers in every corner of the country we were able to run cheeky, creative and impactful rapid response actions to make sure that climate change was front and centre of the political agenda. I never thought that I’d meet the Prime Minister (Rudd at the time) dressed up as a clown fish! 

How has the Community Organising Fellowship impacted on my work?

Thinking back to the first workshop of 2014, our Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network didn’t yet exist. Personally, I also feel much more confident as an organiser, as a campaigner and as an individual. Through the Fellowship I was able to build deep and meaningful relationships with friends and colleagues in the movement and feel much more connected to groups we work alongside. This is particularly important as we continue to work in solidarity with non-Indigenous allies as well as Indigenous people globally (thanks to the Sierra Club for many awesome connections!). The program helped me to understand and be excited about our potential to organise our people in Australia and it has been with the help of an incredible mentor (from the Fellowship) that we’ve been able to turn this inspiration into action.

One of my favourite quotes reinstates the importance of community organising:

If you give me a fish, you have fed me for a day. If you teach me to fish, then you have fed me until the river is contaminated or the shoreline seized for development. But if you teach me how to organise, then whatever the challenge I can join together with my peers and we will fashion our own solution. 

Millie and SEED members

Millie and SEED members

About the Author

James Whelan

James Whelan

James is founding co-director of the Change Agency and co-director of the Community Organising Fellowship.

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