Jawun, Cathie Kennedy and staff from the Gumatj Corporation

There is a great sense of optimism rising from the lands of the Gove Peninsula in North East Arnhem Land. It is the land of the Yolngu, home to a vibrant, traditional Aboriginal culture and a growing number of small Indigenous owned and run businesses.

Cathie Kennedy from our Communication Services Branch spent six weeks living and working in the remote Gove community of Gunyangara under the Jawun program.

Jawun — the name means ‘friend’ in the Kuku Yalanji language of Mossman Gorge — aims to build Indigenous capacity by placing skilled people from top Australian companies and government agencies in Indigenous organisations.

We are a Jawun partner and Cathie was one of five of our staff who took part in the Jawun program in 2016–17. Cathie worked for Gumatj Corporation which runs 20 small businesses and six social benefit organisations.

Gumatj is building a positive future for the region, generating employment opportunities, supporting the education of its young people and improving lifetime wellbeing.

Cathie developed a suite of simple “how to” guides, such as applying for tenders and grants, to help build the organisation’s capability. She shared practical skills such as project planning and time management with staff from the Gumatj timber workshop, and helped improve computer literacy.

She built a website for Gumatj — something the organisation had been attempting for two years. And after hours, she taught women to sew, and learnt to fish.

The Jawun program is of immense value both to the Indigenous organisation, our Department and the personal and professional development of the secondee.

“Taking part in the program is not all one way,” Cathie said. “There’s a lot of reciprocity. We pass on our skills, but we also learn a lot. We bring our learnings and insights back to the workplace, which allows us to positively impact the way our Department approaches Indigenous issues and policy.”

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