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Meet Barry Lenihan, General Manager First Nations

Barry Lenihan, our General Manager First Nations, looks away from the camera smiling

Last month, Mercy Community CEO, Fritha Radyk, was able to share some exciting news with the organisation: Barry Lenihan had joined the team as General Manager, First Nations. 

This wasn’t news to everyone, however, as our Cultural Connections team were involved in the recruitment process for this role—a great way to make sure we found the right person. So, while our Cultural Connections team have had the chance to get to know Barry, the majority of our teams, supporters and sector partners haven’t yet!  

As an introduction, we managed to squeeze some time into Barry’s calendar, and asked him to tell us a little about himself… 

BL: I’m from NSW and my mobs are Dharawal (Bidjigal) and Yuin (Budawang). I come from a huge family, have a partner, Samantha (who also has a huge family) and two children, Brianna, and Tristan. I’m an avid surfer and fisherman, though pretty much anything to do with the ocean I enjoy.  

I’ve had a diverse career with the majority of time dedicated to working for the Aboriginal community. I have worked for the NSW Government in roles with the NSW Police Force, NSW Aboriginal Affairs, NSW Ombudsman, Liquor and Gaming NSW and recently for NSW Aboriginal Housing Office. I have also taken on contract roles with Uniting Care NSW and the Fred Hollows Foundation. Most notable to the role I am in now, however, is the significant experience I’ve had working directly in the Child Protection Sector as a Principal Officer of Out of Home Care agencies, in addition to 5 years with the NSW Peak, the Aboriginal Child Family and Community Care State Secretariat (AbSec). Here I helped develop partnership, capacity and growth models of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to facilitate the transition of case management to the community-controlled sector. By far these have been my most rewarding roles. 

MC: How have the first few weeks been and where have they taken you? 

BL: I’ve already been very lucky to have met some of the amazing people across Mercy Community, travelling to Toowoomba and being introduced by [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Regional Cultural Lead] Laurie Stewart, who knows everyone. I had the opportunity to visit Cherbourg and Caboolture last week as well, which I really enjoyed. 

I’ve also had the early opportunity to meet with the Mercy Community Board, Fritha, and the Executive Leaders, which has given me great insight into the high regard they place on the staff of Mercy Community and the people we serve. 

MC: What do you hope to get out of the next few months, as you get to know Mercy Community’s people and services? 

BL: I’m hoping to get to meet more people and hear of the intersect my role has to theirs. I believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is something people have a hunger to know more about, as much of Mercy Community’s work engages and serves the First Nations people of the Queensland community. I would like to know how Mercy Community can leverage the cultural knowledge our staff and communities hold, to support better outcomes for people we work with, without adding to and impacting on their day-to-day roles and lives, what we often call the “Cultural Load”.  

We have a fantastic “Innovate” Reconciliation Action Plan and I can see much of what is identified in the plan is planned, on track, or complete. So, continuing to work with the plan is key to supporting what Mercy Community is wanting to achieve at this stage of their reconciliation journey, but acknowledging they know there is always work to do is what I am looking forward to. We have some small things already in the pipeline to support learning on current affairs relating to First Nations people and I am also looking forward to this launching soon.  

MC: What about Mercy Community inspired you to join us?  

BL: Mercy Community drew me in with their deep commitment to First Nations people. They recognise their journey is young and will be forever evolving though have made a very considered effort to listen deeply to their First Nations staff and partners, recognising when they get it wrong and moving forward to getting it right. Mercy Community is genuinely committed to self-determination through Delegated Authority however without this directive consider First Nations business is best placed in the hands of First Nations leadership and organisations.  

I’m very lucky to have been chosen to lead this work, alongside the Mercy Community Cultural Connections Group.  

Welcome Barry! 

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