Goolburri Aboriginal Health Advancement CEO, Lizzie Adams has announced she will be running as a candidate for the Toowoomba Regional Council in the 28 March 2020 election.
The mother who has been involved in Aboriginal affairs since she was 17, says she will stand on a platform of giving ‘a voice to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people of the community of Toowoomba’.
“So if you want your voice heard, I’m your girl and I’ll say it how it is,” Lizzie Adams said in the podcast interview.
“I won’t sugar coat it.
“I won’t go in and change their words to suit, you know, some other jargon or what I think should be best said.
“And that’s the honesty that I bring.”
Lizzie Adams also discussed some of the challenges she and her family had faced, including the affects of drug addiction on her daughter.
She also took a shot at the Toowoomba mayor for not having enough engagement with the Aboriginal community.
Read the Lizzie Adams interview TRANSCRIPT
Andrew: Thank you very much for your company. Look, it is the end of 2019, but right as soon as next year starts, the first thing that we’ll be looking at in Queensland is the local government elections. So a lot of candidates have been putting their hand up, indicating that they do want to stand and be counted when it comes to the elections in March, and that is true of Lizzie Adams. She’s putting her hand up for the Toowoomba Regional Council. To have a chat with her, she is on the line, but we’ll say good day to Daryl Nicholson first because he’s flagged this interview and he’s got a passion for the Toowoomba region. We call him the Toowoomba advocate. Daryl, how are you?
Darryl: Going very well, Andrew. Good morning. Thanks for doing this hookup today with Lizzie. Hi, Lizzie. How are you today?
Lizzie Adams: Good thanks, Daryl. How are you? Hi, Andrew.
Andrew: Good to chat with you both. And Daryl, you’ve been following the Toowoomba region for quite some time. There have been some that have put their hand up quite some time ago and now you’re really starting to see the candidates step up and say, “Yep, I want to give it a go.” How did this come on your radar for Lizzie Adams?
Darryl: Okay, well I ran into Lizzie about 12 months ago at Rumours International and she sort of hinted about it, that she was going to run. But I first met her in 2018 that time with Berneigh. We were on the streets raising money for homelessness in Toowoomba with Nat [inaudible 00:01:26]. And it’s funny, I ran into Nat on Saturday and he said, “Daryl, who’s running for Council?” And I said, “Well, Lizzie’s put her hand up and I’m interviewing her on Monday.”
So Lizzie, welcome to the show. Do appreciate your time. You’re the CEO of Goolburri Aboriginal Health Advancements. You’ve been doing that for 15 years. And I’m going to talk about some other things as well, but tell us about your role at Goolburri and what you do.
Lizzie Adams: Yeah. So I came to Toowoomba in 2004 to take up the role of CEO. So I’ve been there 15 years. When we first came in, and no accolades to myself, it’s always a team effort. We’ve actually grown the organisation within, not just the Toowoomba region, but the Ipswich and the South West Queensland in service delivery from health services and social services.
Darryl: Yep. Okay.
Andrew: Yeah. Look, so… You can go for it, Daryl. I’ve got heaps of questions as well, but I-
Darryl: No worries.
Andrew: … definitely want to hear what you want to chat with Lizzie about because this is what democracy is all about. People putting their hand up and saying, “We want to have a go.”
Lizzie Adams: That’s right.
Darryl: That’s right. Originally, why did you come to Toowoomba? What made you come to Toowoomba? I want to find out what beckoned you to this beautiful city.
Lizzie Adams: Well, I come from a nursing background, Daryl, and I’ve been involved in Aboriginal affairs since the young age of 17. And when the opportunity arose, and my two boys in particular were still in primary and one going to high school. So we thought they were good sports people, so giving them an opportunity also. So we moved to Toowoomba for that reason but also to a bit of a career pathway for myself to get up and make a difference on a different level because I was very active in the Charleville community where I was born in Kalamata but lived all my life in Charleville.
I was very active in the community and I’m very community-minded. They were nursing in particular. I could see that ill health of our people. So Hoover gave me that opportunity. And to be able to come down and to grow it from a dental service, which is what we originally funded for, into social services, which takes in the child protection continuum, aged care, early learning. With our HIPPY programme, we have a [inaudible 00:03:50] programme, healing and wellbeing services. It’s just keeps growing.
And I’m very proud to say that we’re one of the bigger employers of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander people. 90% of our employees across the region are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent. We have probably five to 10 professional non-indigenous workers who are just great. So just providing good health, social inclusion, all that stuff, but also opportunity around the employment, which is a struggle that I’ve said in one of the other interviews that I know what it’s like to not be able to get a after school job. So by providing people with opportunity. But we also serve as non-indigenous community, and in particular, the low socio community of Toowoomba in particular in our business-based GP model. So we don’t get funded for our GP services like most AMSs do, Aboriginal health services do. Yeah, and it’s the multicultural community it is. And we do have other cultures that come there too. So I thought putting my hand up, I can give a voice to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people of the community of Toowoomba, you know?
Darryl: That’s beautiful. Andrew, go to your question and ask what you were going to.
Andrew: Yeah. You say you’re putting your hand up, you want to be a counsellor for across the Toowoomba region. And you’ve just mentioned that you see yourself as being a voice, for as you say, the most vulnerable. What about for the whole region, what are some of the issues that you see that need to be tackled as an incoming counsellor?
Lizzie Adams: Look, I’m not going to lie to the constituents out there. You know, I’m not up to scratch with your Siri junior housing and your roads and all that stuff. But, you know, my passion is a community’s voice. So it doesn’t matter which area for the region that you want to be heard, I just want to guarantee that they will be heard. So whether it’s small business lads, large business, agricultural, anything like that, if I don’t know it, I will get the expertise to inform me as such. And I will take that voice to the table.
Andrew: Yeah. Let’s see. What are some of the immediate things that you think need to be tackled? The things that you do know, look, let’s put aside some of them, maybe the infrastructure, things like sewage and water and all of that sort of stuff because it’s actually may bring a very different dimension to the conversation. That is what has been discussed. Everybody’s talking about water at the moment. Darryl and I have been talking about it to great extent. But what are some of the social issues that you see that are being elected as a counsellor that you can get in and tackle?
Lizzie Adams: But Andrew, I really honestly think it’s council can be the influence, you know, while it’s not the funded business that distributes from, you know, from your federal and the state stuff. But when you look at your housing in particular, and then Darrell mentioned the homeless night in our land. Until you do that and you see the real stuff off of you, you don’t actually appreciate what you’ve got. And that was a big learning for me. I’m actually involved in the trauma women’s collective with Protea Place. You know, the numbers in the services that we’re doing at that level with the homeless women is unbelievable. And a lot of that stuff then leads to employment.
You know, people think people just want to do work for the doll or sit on welfare and that stuff. But no, that’s not true. You know, it’s around giving people opportunity. If you give people opportunity, they can then make the choices they need. Because I’m around the training and employment stuff in particular, let’s not tell them what they need to train in. You know, it’s no good saying, okay, we’re going to run a, for example, what I’ve seen in the past, we’re going to run a [inaudible 00:07:50] culture through the council. Well, you know, if that’s not what the people want, they might want to train in health or nursing or you know, it’s around that stuff. It’s listening to the people, what they want to train in and help. There’s always going to be sick people around. There’s always going to be homeless people around if we don’t fix the housing industry.
You know, my personal experience with my family and my daughter has given me permission to speak about around the drug use in, in Toowoomba. We’re a pretty close knit family, a strong family and as you know with the death of our son, that actually brings in a bit of more strength and resilience for myself. So we did the [inaudible 00:08:35] daughter, you know, we found that for her to do rehab or anything like that, she had to leave the community. Now I think Toowoomba was a big enough region or regional town to be able to focus on getting a detox centre in Toowoomba or a rehab centre in Toowoomba because it’s not for everybody, and from my learnings, if I could have had some respite, you know, my children, my husband, and I, we did around the clock for like 72 hours. If I had been a bit of respite maybe it could have been a faster process. But yeah, it’s addressing those needs and being inclusive, you know.
Andrew: Lizzie you consistently come back to talking about employment and I have this conversation with lots of different groups and organisations and individuals. Can you take us through in your experience somebody that is coming from a place where maybe they haven’t had as greater opportunities as you would like, but you take them on a journey where they become educated and then they ultimately become employed. Can you take a story to benefit that there are to that individual to the community and then also to the country?
Lizzie Adams: Yep. So, you know, my belief is, and my drive through my position as [inaudible 00:09:55] and whatever capacity that I may be in the community, is that, you know, we try and encourage us feel by supremacists. So we’re starting at an early age to start educating our people that, you know, to work, let’s set up some work ethics. That’s going to be a reason to get up in the morning. You know, not everything is for free in life. And you know, otherwise, if they were adults in the community or youth in the community, you know, we employ them off the street because we’re giving them a reason to get up every day to provide for their families. You know, and then when you look at the domestic violence, so it gets that domino effect. So then the domestic violence coming in because they’re used to providing for their family, but they, because there’s no employment, they’re no longer providing for their families.
So it gives them self-worth if they’ve got a job. And it doesn’t matter how little or how big it is, you know, my belief is I don’t really care how many letters or numbers you got behind your name. We’re all here for the same reason, in providing a service. But, you know, give the people the opportunity from whether it’s a trainee ship, whether it’s, you know, but it’s got to be something that’s ongoing.
So what we do around, I do it, Tom Gilbrey, he ran the school based apprentices in particular, is that if we can’t give them employment after their two year training, we see them as preparing them for the workforce. So instead of them having to go to Tay for, to go and do some training to be able to get a job, they’re already skilled. So, you know, and we’ve had great success.
We’ve had 50 plus trainees and school bases come through Gilbrey and you know, one young non-indigenous girl who couldn’t get a job, nobody wanted her. So we took her on and you know, she’s been all over the country. She’s international, she’s, you name it, she’s done it. We’ve had a young girl going into the private sector around dental, in particular, young people picking up administration jobs, you know, so it’s around that and for the economy, it’s got to be a happiest community. People are investing their money back into the community that they’re working for. So, you know, it’s about getting a little bit smarter in how we do business instead of just keep doing the red trick of, you know, we think this is a great idea. Pull the people in. What would you like to, you know, moving forward in a position.
Andrew: Yeah. [Crosstalk 00:12:15] Go for Daryl.
Darryl: Yeah. Lizzie, so I was watching her on channel seven. They did a story on her, but she just said she wants to listen to the residents and give people a voice. And I think, you know, this next council election, this is what’s going to be happening. The Toowoomba people really want to be heard. And people like Lizzie. And I’ve spoken to a couple of the other candidates that are running. They’re getting out there first and they’re going to do the old theory of keeping their mouth shut and opening their ears, and listening to what the community is saying and then I’ll think they’ll start talking more in generally where they’re going. So a lot of what you’re doing there in your community as an advocate and what are you hearing from the community so far in your early days and timing?
Lizzie Adams: Yeah, and it’s around that stuff. It’s just being heard and the common sense approaches, you know, it’s around, and look, I’m not here to beat up on any counsellors, but it’s around being seen but not only for special occasions, you know, and if I’m honest, you know, there’s a few counsellors that I probably don’t even know. And I’ve been in the community for 15 years, one of the biggest employers of Aboriginal Trust that aren’t the people. And you know, unless I’m at a function, nobody’s been to see me, nobody’s asked us. And look, I’m not a self, the kind leader in the Toowoomba, but I step up because I can see what’s happening.
And like I said on the interview with channel seven, the seven news, you know, I made a difference, when we had, you know, the day of the Memorial Foundation five year anniversary, [inaudible 00:13:59] which we are very, very thankful for. And I’d offer three, you know, and I basically just said, there’s nothing black about this council. You know, there’s no real engagement. And I asked the question, you know, as most non-indigenous organisation to do, government or NGO, have a rap plan. I said, do you have a rep plan? They said, no.
Andrew: Can you tell us what that acronym means?
Lizzie Adams: Oh, sorry. Yeah. Yep. So that, that’s a plan that’s saying out of the particular organisation is going to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Andrew: Reconciliation has been a big subject for 2019 it has been for a long time, but has been a lot of talk around about it. With a council how do you see true reconciliation happening?
Lizzie Adams: Well that’s around the true engagement, Andrew. You know, it’s not about having, you know, like I said, no disrespect to Mayor Paul Antonio, but you know, I said to him one day, I said, so Paul, I’d really love to catch up with you, let you know what Hillary is doing, you know, some of the aspirational stuff that I’d like to see happen. And it was said, I will, the mayor has a half hour session with every neutral side on the people once a month on a Monday. And I said, okay, yeah, so how do I get in to do that? Oh, you just did this, this, this and this. But what are you going to what are you going to talk about in half an hour?
Andrew: Well, Darryl let’s give Lizzie the opportunity now you want to talk about some of the aspirational things that you want to see happen. You’ve got this platform. Take it away. Tell the world what aspirational things you want to see happen.
Lizzie Adams: Well, I mean it’s around that the true engagement. So you know where I was alluding to was that also out of that meeting with the four counsellor, was that to come up with the an advisory and everyone starts out on that advisory committee to council, which has now been successfully implemented. And look, I think that is the biggest step, but it’s still, the aspirations for Toowoomba as a community is giving recognition to those who may bring the solution to the table.
Andrew: Yep. Yep.
Lizzie Adams: You know what I mean? So if we’re talking around, you know, and I’m not just using the black card here, I’m for the whole community because like I said, I see not the, none of the [inaudible 00:16:27] people. They don’t fit in their own society. So that’s why they come up and lean over towards Aboriginal on this stuff. That’s why they come to our GP services and in our mental health services. So it’s around the thing, police and stuff. Let’s do something that’s fading from.
Andrew: You mentioned inclusive to be truly inclusive of everybody. Do you think that it’s the is really designed for, it doesn’t matter who you are, so long as you’ve got purpose, you’ve got education and you’ve got a job where you can actually be a fair contributor to the society. Is that what you’re getting? Is that what you say?
Lizzie Adams: Yes, yes. You know, and also around the, it’s around being true to, you know, a virtual community. So yes, we do have drug issues in Toowoomba. Yes, we do have domestic violence issue. Yes, we do have child protection issues in the community, but hey, how are we going to work together? To reduce the over representation because Toowoomba is one of the leading regions and through the child protection arena, DBs on the growth for everybody.
Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true, isn’t it? Domestic violence. We have been involved in quite a few, both Darryl and myself sometimes together, sometimes individually in different organisations and events where domestic violence, the outcomes that we’re experiencing the statistics, I think Darryl and I were talking about it a little while ago, we just can’t get our head around, just have bad they are. The domestic violence, you’ve touched on that. So your view is very much get the country working and to some degree that’s going to help that, yeah?
Lizzie Adams: Yeah. And, he proper investment to get it happening. So you know, how many good people out there who we can provide some free training for around DV, around the drugs, who we were going to be readily available for the likes of myself when I needed some respite or the likes of a family who is struggling, you know, let’s do some of that real training for the real issues. And if you’ve got proper investment for it. And if it’s not the counsel’s issue around the investment or let’s use the interference of the council to get the investment from the people we needed from.
Andrew: Yeah, but can we just take you in a different direction just for a moment. We like going down to the national multicultural festival is held in Canberra every year. I absolutely love that event. It’s one of those events that as we’re leaving it, because it’s coming to a close for that year, we’re quite sad and just really excited about getting back there for the next year. It’s probably actually one of the events each year that we most look forward to and there’s a bunch of reasons for that, but one of those is the amazing sense of immersion into culture, true multiculturalism where it doesn’t matter whether the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander, Irish, and I could just rattle them off around the world, but they come together and they really, it appears like they assimilate. You can walk from one store to the next and try foods from different places and there was some really, really good representation from the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander communities up on stage just showing off. They had cultures.
For the Toowoomba region, if you were to be a counsellor, what are some of the cultural events and maybe even things like artwork that would be around the place, does your vision for Toowoomba and what it might look like from a cultural perspective?
Lizzie Adams: I think it needs to be just not once a year. For example, the NEDA. I think, you know, it needs to be ongoing, not just randomly. And if I may, I, my understanding is that, you know, [inaudible 00:20:26] together and we did the, the Cobb and Co museum led lighting, which got, you know, a couple of our artists and they did two beautiful pieces. Now why isn’t that displayed in one of the prominent areas in Toowoomba? Because you know, it’s sitting on my toe, the Gallberry one, it’s sitting on my shelf. I don’t know where Cobble is sitting theirs, but why aren’t they displayed at the airport? Like I think was the original intent so that people step off, they look out and they go, Oh look, that’s that Aboriginal services here. They work in collaboratively with their, you know, first nations people.
So it’s got to be an ongoing promotion, engagement and all of that stuff. Not just the one or four, you know, like you’re saying the big one in Canberra or the one that they had in Queens Park in Toowoomba or the natives, you know, because we’re all burned out in say four to six weeks all trying to do the NEDAs because we’ll want to do a good job and promote, you know, our culture for what it is. But why do we have to do it just then. Why can’t Toowoomba come together and say, you know, once a month, you know, we’ve got traditional dancers in there and these young fellows, a young business people who’ve set these dance groups up, their training the younger kids that come through the language, all that stuff, we use it only a one off that education takes, on the language part of stuff. You know, it’s not a cherry picking our culture for Blaine region arts and then you know and wherever else something may fit, it’s inclusive again. So all of those things make up our culture. What can we promote that all year round?
Andrew: Yeah. Lizzie, look, my final question or really probably more my final opportunity to you is you’ve got this platform, make your, state your pitch, put your pitch to the people as to why they would vote for you, march, 2020
Lizzie Adams: Well look, I think if I’m, and I’m always open and honest, Andrew, people can tell you that. I don’t sugar coat anything. If you want your voice brought to the table or your issues addressed at the table, sit down and have a coffee with me. Do you want to learn more about Lizzie Adams? Hey, throw me a message. Give me a call. I’m happy to sit there and tell you. So if you want your voice heard, I’m your girl and I’ll say it how it is. I won’t sugar coat it. I won’t go in and change their words to suit, you know, some other jargon or what I think should be best said. And that’s the honesty that I bring.
Andrew: Yeah. Lizzie Adams. Thank you very much for your time with our listeners.
Lizzie Adams: No worries. Thanks for the opportunity guys. And hopefully, vote one Lizzie Adams for counsellor in 2020.
Darryl: Thanks Lizzie.
Lizzie Adams: Thanks Daryl.
Andrew: Well done. Look all the best with getting out of that [inaudible 00:23:30] they are right?
Lizzie Adams: Yeah, we’ve got to go find the car, we probably lost it, you know.
Andrew: That really reminds of feedback of we got back quite a few years ago and it was a domestic airport day, but that multi story car park, that’s sort of almost adjoins. I’d gone down to, I was on Sydney or Melbourne for a job and I come back, I’m like, Aw crap. Which level was it? Back in the Ford days I’m trying to hit, set the horn off, you know, [crosstalk 00:23:59] I’m sure Darryl is more than comfortable with me saying this, but I would imagine anytime you want to say something, give something. You had to give Darryl a bell. You know, you’ve, you’ve got my support there too. Make sure that whenever you want a voice and you want to broadcast it, you can do it with us.
Lizzie Adams: So you guys will put that up and then I can share that on my page and stuff too?
Lizzie Adams: Oh wonderful.
Darryl: They’ll be a transcript and everything.
Lizzie Adams: Yeah, you guys are awesome.
Andrew: No worries. You take care. Look after yourself.
Lizzie Adams: You too guys, have an awesome day.