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Policy Fellowship

Senior Fellows drive global change in Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity Program

3 min read

Meet Dean Parkin, a Quandamooka man from Minjerribah, also known as North Stradbroke Island.

Among many achievements, Dean is one of the inaugural Senior Fellows in the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity Program, an Indigenous-led lifelong, collaborative fellowship program and platform for systemic change across Australia and New Zealand.

The yearlong intensive Fellowship program hosted by the University of Melbourne, supports social change-makers through ongoing participation as a Senior Fellow and membership of the lifelong learning community of AFSE Fellows and the global community of Atlantic Fellows.

Before becoming an Atlantic Fellow, Dean worked in various fields, as a policy advisor, strategic designer, engagement strategist and management consultant. Like many First Nations change-makers, Dean wears many hats, and is involved in many initiatives, and is closely involved in advocating for Constitutional change, through the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Dean applied to be an Atlantic Fellow because of the opportunity it offered to be part of a cohort founded on collaboration. He also wanted to be part of a broader local and global network focused on equity. Joining a community of social change agents that could leverage each other to amplify their impact was an appealing idea.

“For me it was really about the idea of fellowship and, to be honest, less about the projects, because I kind of figure those of us that are in social change have either, through our own work or through our own activity, involved ourselves in a whole bunch of projects,” Dean said.

“This idea that you could get different change agents from different sectors and with different experiences, who could not only agree well and collaborate well, but disagree well and respect each other through philosophical or ideological differences – I joined to be a part of that and to see how that could develop over time.”

Dean describes his experience in the program as wonderful – well-structured for people like him who are curious, reflective and action orientated.

He is grateful for the opportunity to think about and test big ideas and was surprised and impressed by the quality of the content and collaborators and still reflects on the discussions and insights when thinking through his day-to-day strategy and tactics.

“I think about the time and the space as the most valuable elements of the fellowship because we just get caught up in day to day business. We get caught up in our jobs, and to have deliberate time with provocation from the modules and faculty, and the people that came in and out of the program and shared their own insights into so many different spaces,” Dean said.

“I always refer back to this experience as an almost luxurious time where I could really work on my own thinking and reflection. So, I think without that I probably would’ve just kept going on with what I was doing.”

The AFSE Fellowship year had a profound impact on Dean as a social change-maker. It strengthened his knowledge and skills as well as his networks and relationships, enabling him to be more effective and have greater impact across all the projects he is involved in. This means the work he contributes to can reach more people and have a bigger impact.

“It’s been quite profound. It really has.” Dean says about the impact the program has had on his career. Dean is Project Director at From the Heart, an education project administered by the Cape York Institute to support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution.

The Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity program is seeking pre-registration and expressions of interest for the 2021 intake.


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