Project launched "Empower Communities"

Release Date: 
6 February 2014
Media release

Key Indigenous leaders and representatives from corporate Australia have come together for the first official meeting of the Federal Government’s Empowered Communities project.

The project is a joint effort between Indigenous leaders from eight regions across Australia, the Australian Government, and Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships. Several state governments are also participating.

The project aims to design a new governance model for the regions to ensure more customised and coordinated government initiatives and to provide greater empowerment of local Indigenous leaders over the activities in their communities.

The Steering Committee which will guide the work met for the first time this week.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge, said the $5 million investment to fund the detailed design of the model delivers on a Federal Coalition election commitment.

Mr Tudge said that one of the key problems in government interaction with Indigenous communities has been the sheer number of programs and agencies that interact with often very small communities. Sometimes these programs and agencies are aligned and customised, but frequently they are not.

“For example, the ANAO reported a community with a population of less than 500 Indigenous people receiving over 100 programs, delivered by seven Federal Government agencies and 11 State Government agencies.” Mr Tudge said.

“The Empowered Communities model will change the way government and Indigenous communities work together”.

“It will create a model to achieve greater coordination of government policy and it will ensure that government investment is informed by local leaders and targeted to make a genuine and practical difference to the lives of Indigenous people.”

Mr Tudge said that the Empowered Communities Project will build on the Federal Coalition Government’s decision to consolidate Indigenous specific programs, bringing them under one government department and ensuring greater policy coordination.

Mr Tudge said a stronger local governance structure, led by key indigenous leaders, will be important to delivering better services.

“We know that local empowerment and locally driven solutions will improve outcomes for Indigenous people,” Mr Tudge said.

“We need to give Indigenous people a greater say and greater responsibility about how best to respond to local issues, and especially to combat welfare dependence” Mr Tudge said.

The eight regions involved are Cape York, Central Coast of NSW, Inner Sydney, Goulburn Murray, East Kimberley, West Kimberley, APY/NPY Lands and North East Arnhem Land.

A key part of the project will be to engage with Indigenous leaders, communities and organisations across the eight regions. This aspect will be led by Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships.

The Steering Committee is co-chaired by the Chairman of the Cape York Institute and patron of Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships, Noel Pearson, and the Associate Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Liza Carroll.

Other members of the Steering Committee come with a broad range of skills and experience, including Indigenous leaders, corporate representatives and senior Commonwealth and State government officials.

“I am looking forward to working closely with the Empowered Communities Steering Committee to develop the new ideas that are needed to make a change, Mr Tudge said.

The Committee’s membership includes:

  • Mr Noel Pearson, Co-Chair (Cape York Institute, Queensland)
  • Ms Liza Carroll, Co-Chair (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet)
  • Mr Sean Gordon (Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, New South Wales)
  • Mr Ian Trust AO (Wunan, Western Australia)
  • Ms Denise Bowden (Yothu Yindi Foundation, Northern Territory)
  • Mr Paul Briggs (Kaiela Institute, Victoria)
  • Mr Michael Rose (Allens and Business Council of Australia)
  • Ms Karyn Baylis (Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships)
  • Mr Brian Hartzer (Australian Financial Services, Westpac)
  • Mr David Tune (Department of Finance)
  • Mr Finn Pratt (Department of Social Services)
  • Mr Jon Grayson (Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Queensland)
  • Mr Chris Eccles (Department of Premier and Cabinet, New South Wales)
  • Mr Cliff Weeks (Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Western Australia)
  • Mr Robert Kendrick (Department of Community Services, Northern Territory)

Professor Marcia Langton of the University of Melbourne is special advisor to the co-chairs.


Biographies – Empowered Communities Steering Committee members

Mr Noel Pearson (Co-Chair) comes from the Guugu Yimidhirr community of Hopevale on South Eastern Cape York Peninsula and is Chair of the Cape York Group, (CYG). Organisations within CYG include the Cape York Institute for Policy & Leadership and Cape York Partnerships. Noel is a history and law graduate of the University of Sydney. In 1990, Noel co-founded the Cape York Land Council and was Executive Director until 1996. In 1993, Noel acted as representative to the traditional owners in the first successful land claim. Following the Mabo decision of the High Court of Australia, he played a key part in negotiations over the Native Title Act 1993 as a member of the Indigenous negotiating team. Since 1999, Noel has campaigned for Welfare Reform in Indigenous communities and was instrumental in helping establish Apunipima Health Council, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships, the Cape York Institute and Cape York Partnerships. In 2008 the Welfare Reform Project, driven by Cape York Institute and Cape York Partnerships, was implemented in four pilot communities in Cape York. Noel’s goal is to enable Cape York’s Indigenous people to have the capacity to choose the life they have reason to value by reinstating the rights of Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their lives. He is also the patron of Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships.

Ms Liza Carroll PSM (Co-Chair) is the Head of Indigenous Affairs in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C). Prior to commencing with PM&C, Liza was Deputy Secretary in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). Before joining the Australian Public Service in 1999, Liza worked extensively in the higher education sector. Liza has a Degree in Education and a Masters Degree (Hons) in Educational Sociology.

Mr Sean Gordon is a Wangkumarra/Barkintji man, and grew up at Brewarrina, Western NSW. Sean is the CEO of Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council. Sean has a Trade Certificate in Carpentry and Joinery, Advanced Diploma in Building Supervision (Licensed Builder), Advanced Diploma in Community Services (Management) and a Bachelor Degree in Adult Education. Sean was a member of the NSW 2013 Breaking Disadvantage Team, NSW 2012 Aboriginal Land Rights Act Review, Member of the FaHCSIA Research Ethics Committee and Board Member of Regional Development Australia Central Coast. Sean is a current Director of NAISDA, Member of the Central Coast Community Campus Consultative Forum and Convenor of the Empowered Communities Leadership Group.

Mr Ian Trust AO is an Aboriginal man from the East Kimberley in Western Australia. He is the Executive Chair of Wunan and is currently the Deputy Chairperson of the Indigenous Land Corporation. Wunan is leading Living Change, which is a community-led, place-based initiative for cultural, economic and social renewal in the East Kimberley. He is also engaged with a number of state and regional organisations including Kimberley Development Commission, Kimberley Land Council and East Kimberley Job Pathways.

Ms Denise Bowden stems from the Katherine region of the Northern Territory. Denise is the Chief Executive Officer of the Yothu Yindi Foundation which services the North East Arnhem region for the Yolngu people. The mission of the Yothu Yindi Foundation is to provide opportunities that can assist the region and its people by way of economic development, education service delivery, the promotion of Yolngu culture and developing Wellbeing opportunities. Denise's experience stems from a broad range of employment including with the Northern Land Council in Katherine, as an electorate officer for the Member for Arnhem, a co-campaign manager for previous Northern Territory Chief Ministers and as an Indigenous Advisor to Northern Territory Government Indigenous Affairs Ministers.

Mr Paul Briggs is a Yorta Yorta man from Shepparton Victoria. He was raised on the Cummeragunja Mission on the VIC/NSW border. He was the founding Chairman of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and he continues as the founding President of the Rumbalara Football Netball Club. He has been the Chairman at the Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative and in 2005 joined the University of Melbourne Council. Paul is currently the Chairman of Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation as well as the Kaiela Institute and First Nations Foundation. Paul has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Mr Michael Rose is the Chief Executive Partner of Allens and Chairman of the Indigenous Engagement Task Force of the Business Council of Australia. He is Chairman of ChildFund Alliance (a global development NGO), a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and an Ambassador of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.

Ms Karyn Baylis is the Chief Executive Officer of Jawun and a Non-Executive Director at Grocon Pty Ltd. She has held a number of senior management positions with a number of large Australian companies including Optus, IAG and Qantas. She has also held a number of Board positions for not for profit organisations, CARE Australia and Cure Cancer.

Mr Brian Hartzer is the Chief Executive, Australian Financial Services, for Westpac Banking Corporation. He spent three years in the UK as CEO for Retail, Wealth and Ulster Bank at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and ten years with ANZ in Australia. Brian has a significant interest in Indigenous affairs and has long been an advocate for the economic development of Indigenous Australia, including taking part in the Long Walk in 2005, the 2012 Dungala Kaiela Oration, the development of the MyMoola program and the Empowered Communities initiative.

Mr David Tune has been the Secretary of the Department of Finance since 31 August 2009. He began his career in the Australian Public Service in 1976 and has worked in the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Social Security and the Treasury on a range of policy matters such as social security, health, veterans’ affairs and taxation. From 1986 to 1988 he was seconded to the British Cabinet Office. Mr Tune was appointed Deputy Secretary of Treasury’s Fiscal Policy Group in 2006. In July 2008 he returned to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the role of Associate Secretary, Domestic Policy Group, where he had responsibility for coordinating policy advice to the then Prime Minister on a range of diverse matters including health and ageing, infrastructure, workforce participation, economic and fiscal policy. Mr Tune was awarded the Public Service Medal in the 2009 Australia Day Honours List.

Mr Finn Pratt is the Secretary of the Department of Social Services. Finn was appointed Secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in April 2011. He has 30 years of experience in various positions in the Australian Government. He has been integrally involved in Indigenous affairs for many years, including leading the Government’s national effort to close the gap in life outcomes and opportunities between indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and playing a key role in the Cape York Welfare Reform trial.

Mr Jon Grayson was appointed Director-General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in March 2012 bringing substantial private sector and government experience to the role. For the two years prior to his appointment, Jon was principal and founder of Queensland Infrastructure Partners, an advisory and transaction arranging firm specialising in infrastructure investment and development. He was previously a senior executive with a major international advisory and investment management firm.

Mr Chris Eccles is Director General of the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet. He was previously the Chief Executive of the South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet. Mr Eccles has worked in a variety of government and private sector senior management positions.

Mr Cliff Weeks is the Director General of the Western Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Mr Weeks has held a range of Executive positions within the public service having worked in the Department of Housing and the WA Police. He is also the Chairman of the Aboriginal Affairs Coordinating Committee.

Mr Robert Kendrick is the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Territory Department of Community Services. He has also been the Senior Executive Director for the former NT Department of Housing, Local Government and Regional Service. Prior to this Mr Kendrick was in the Northern Territory Police for 29 years working throughout the NT and also served six months in East Timor with the United Nations Police.