Meet the Team - Kia Dowell

Meet the Team - Kia Dowell

Posted 13 May 2022

Kia Dowell is Executive Director, Strategy and Innovation

Describe your role and what it entails

Kia and her family

I joined IBA in 2017 and head up the Strategy and Innovation division within IBA. We coordinate the development of IBA's strategic and corporate plans, report on progress against plans, and undertake research and evaluation to inform innovative policy and strategic directions.

Although we are not a customer facing team we reach across all areas of the organisation and are involved in interesting projects that really focus on challenging the narrative and status quo about what our mob (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) are capable of. Since joining IBA, our role has evolved and I'm both excited and curious to see where we end up in the next three-five years. Under my leadership we have worked directly with experts who are from our communities to design and launch IBA’s first Impact Framework, Purposeful Partnerships Framework and are embarking on a bold research and policy agenda to accelerate economic empowerment and financial inclusion.

What made you want to work for IBA? And what motivates you to keep working there?

In all honesty, I actually had no intention or interest to work for IBA let alone government. Obviously, our communities and families have had different interactions with Government and subsequently Government policies since colonisation. I was very mindful of joining a system that, on the surface, I didn’t seem to fit and did not want to conform to.

Following some really difficult conversations and decisions, ultimately I felt that being presented with the opportunity to be part of informing and ultimately challenging systemic and structural barriers specific to economic empowerment was where I could be of most use.

What motivates me to keep working here is hope. Hope that change will continue to take place, informed and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Hope because in the nearly five years I've been with IBA we can start to say that we know we don’t always get it right and will in all reality continue to get some things wrong. At the end of the day, we are an organisation powered by people and we are all doing the best with what we have right now. When I reflect on my time to date with IBA I am confident that we are making a positive difference and are starting to see the evidence of that through initiatives like our Impact Report and in the way that we define what success looks like beyond standard metrics or KPIs.

For me that is the tip of the iceberg, I know IBA has been challenged by its potential to deliver incredibly positive outcomes whilst working within its legislative framework and  upholding the legacy of how IBA came to be. It's important to reflect often on our history as a nation and our history as an organisation, for the time I am at IBA I will continue to remember that we are here for our mob, because of our mob.

What are you most proud of? This could be a personal achievement, or something that makes you proud of IBA or your team.

If you asked me this question when I joined IBA, it would have a very different answer to now. When I joined, I was really excited about ensuring transparency, clarity and voice through IBA's strategy to life, to be part of implementing the Board's vision and learning (and failing) along the way. I am filled with anticipation about the year ahead and give my gratitude to everyone who has been part of my journey at IBA, those that are still here and those who have left the organisation. Most importantly, I honour those who paved the way for me to contribute in this way.

Thinking about now, I am most proud of being a mum to my two girls, Lila and Naiyah. I am proud to be involved in work that inspires me and challenges me but ultimately is a way of contributing to something so much bigger than myself. I see the work I do at IBA and elsewhere to at least attempt to make the world a more inclusive, equitable experience for my daughters and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I would rather be in the arena than a spectator, and the act of showing up each day is a quiet demonstration that I'm here and I'm going to give it a go. I want my daughters to know they are worthy, they are valued and the sacrifices of their ancestors and their grandparents is what has made it possible for them to succeed at whatever their dreams may be. I will make sure that as my daughters grow, they see and hear the stories of this amazing community of customers who are proof that anything is possible, whether it’s owning a home, pursuing business ownership or investing in a way that creates greater positive impacts.

What’s your favourite song or piece of music? Tell us why it means to you.

One of my all-time favourite songs has to Talkin 'Bout A Revolution by the formidable Tracy Chapman. It is so nostalgic for me because whenever my family and I would drive from Warmun Community (where we grew up in the East Kimberley) to either Broome or Darwin, our mum would always play that in the old cassette player (hahah).

Listening to those words as an Aboriginal child living in remote WA, living on country, being around our old people and also being confronted by social and economic disparity probably explains a lot. I love the rawness and vulnerability but the power and relevance of her lyrics. It always makes me stop whatever I'm doing and close my eyes to think about how important human rights are - which is why I suppose the work I'm privileged to undertake at IBA speaks to me - it is about a revolution, a revolution about ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are seen for the assets we are rather than some problem to be dealt with.