Thank you Tony for your introduction. Thank you Aunty Agnes for your warm Welcome to Country on behalf of the traditional owners.
And may I acknowledge the other members of parliament here tonight: the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, and Mr Shayne Neumann MP.
This is a special evening where we celebrate Jawun’s 15th anniversary. I am very proud to be here with perhaps a foot in two camps: here representing the Prime Minister and the Australian Government but also as a Jawun secondee myself, 15 years ago.
I was working at Boston Consulting Group at the time and offered to go up to Cape York to work with the Pearson’s for a few months.
I remember walking into a room with two people, a couple of computers and a Noel Pearson in the corner. But even at that stage in this little office, I could see an ambition, intelligence and determination that knew no bounds and thankfully still does not.
And I recall the thinking of Noel and some of the other leaders at the time: the land rights battles had been largely won and now it was time to shift the focus to the development and social responsibility agenda.
And he explained that just as the land rights battles were won with assistance of some of the best legal minds in the country – the Ron Castan and Ron Merkels – so the development agenda required some bright economic and business minds.
And so Colin Carter from BCG, and Ann Sherry from Westpac, among others were assembled to assist, and through them, to provide some of their people to work on the tasks that the indigenous leaders had set.
It was quite a radical concept at the time and in some ways it still is.
But from those humble beginnings in the year 2000, we stand here tonight to celebrate the mighty contribution that so many companies have made over the last 15 years.
From one secondee from one company working with one organisation, we now have 300 secondees a year from 22 companies, 30 government agencies going to 60 organisations across nine regions.
Over $13 million of in-kind support is provided per annum. It is collectively one of the great philanthropic contributions in Australia.
So we commend all those companies and partners who have committed to the cause over the years, and say thank you for what you have done and continue to do.
I met up with some of the Emerging Leaders today at parliament house and was asked by Josh Toomey, ‘what have you seen different over the last 15 years since Jawun’s involvement?’
And I reflected on three things- things which go to the heart of the contribution that Jawun and its partners have made.
First, is the capacity of the indigenous organisations that have been supported. Fifteen years ago, I walked into a small operation in Cape York. Today, there are dozens of organisations across the nation, which have real capacity, to not just articulate a problem, but to do the analysis, shape the answer, work with partners and implement solutions.
This growth in capacity is, of course, due to the leadership of those organisations, but Jawun has played a key part and continues to play a key part.
Second, was the sharing of ideas and information. Indigenous leaders and organisations in the past were, to be frank, not particularly good at sharing ideas across regions. Today, we have leaders with similar mindsets who are learning from each other from the across the country: welfare reform from the Cape, transitional housing from East Kimberley, economic development from Central Coast. My observation is that Jawun has been central to that transfer of ideas and building a strong support network of leaders.
Finally, what is different is the young leaders themselves, who are so bright, so articulate and ambitious in their thinking who being developed and mentored by senior indigenous and corporate leaders to take up the reform agenda, so that as Ian Trust says, there are 200 leaders pushing it in 10 or 20 years’ time.
This is the impact that I have seen. Of course, from the secondee’s perspective, it can be a life changing experience – learning from Aboriginal leaders, learning about culture and aspirations. And I can personally testify to this, where I had the chance to learn from one of Australia’s greatest intellects, orators and leaders in Noel Pearson.
And when these secondees – all 1600 come back to their companies they share their experiences with others and in doing so are agents of real practical reconciliation.
And so this is a great celebration tonight of something that we can all be collectively proud.
From the government’s perspective, we have been proud to support Jawun through the provision of secondees, through some operational support and of course through supporting the development of the Empowered Communities report which we are currently working through.
Can I just leave my final remarks and thanks to those Indigenous leaders who are leading the journey.
The whole premise of Jawun is to back Indigenous led reform. And here in this room and around Australia we have some of the great leaders in the nation who are absolutely worth backing. I think I can confidentially say on behalf of everyone here that we admire your courage, your intelligence and your leadership in the work you do dealing with some of the toughest challenges for Australia – challenges that are so important for your people and so important for this nation.
Thank you again to Karen Bayliss, the indefatigable Jawun CEO, for the invitation to be here and on behalf of the Prime Minister, may I once again say congratulations to all those involved on the Jawun journey over the last 15 years.