Having been around Indigenous issues for over 15 years and in public office for almost 6, I have learned one very clear lesson: never speak directly after Noel Pearson!
I did ask Karyn to change the order, but I guess if you’re the Patron of the event, you can do as you please!
I am proud to be here at this launch of the Jawun Evaluation Report along with so many other national leaders, business leaders and other people committed to the cause of Indigenous advancement.
I am here with two hats on today.
First, as the Government's representative. We are proud to support Jawun through funding of its operations, the part funding of this evaluation. But increasingly our relationship with Jawun is a partnership model, as the government places its secondees into organisations facilitated by Jawun.
My second hat, is that of a Jawun alumni – in fact the very first one.
Almost 16 years ago, I was a fresh faced corporate secondee from Boston Consulting Group who had volunteered to do a few months' work with Noel and Gerhardt Pearson.
I remember walking into an office to start my new role, and there were two people, a couple of computers and Noel Pearson in the corner.
But even then, I could see the ambition, intellectual grunt and determination that knew no bounds, and thankfully still does not.
And I recall the thinking of the Indigenous leaders at the time: the land rights battles had largely been won and it was time to shift the focus onto the development and social responsibilities agenda.
And just as the land rights battles were won with assistance of some of the best legal minds in the country – the Ron Castans and Ron Merkels of the world – so the development agenda required some bright economic and business minds.
And so Colin Carter from BCG, Ann Sherry from Westpac and a few other leaders were assembled to assist, and through them, to provide some of their people to work on the tasks that indigenous leaders had set.
It was quite a radical concept at the time, and in many ways, still is.
But from those humble beginnings in the year 2000, we stand here today to in many ways, celebrate the outstanding contribution that so many have made over the last 15 or 16 years.
From one secondee from one company working with one organisation, there are now over 300 secondees placed a year from 24 companies, five government entities to 60 organisations across 9 regions.
Collectively, this is one of the greater philanthropic contributions in Australia.
The KPMG evaluation goes into detail as to exactly the impact that this organisation has had over the years. From my perspective, from what I see as a Government Minister who works in this space, and having been part of this program since its inception, there are three things that stand out.
First is the enhanced 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 real capacity to not just articulate a problem, but to do the analysis, shape a solution, work with partners and implement.
This is a profound change, and Jawun has been a key part. Without capable indigenous leaders and organisational capacity, it is so much more difficult to get change to occur.
Second, is the sharing of ideas and information that Jawun facilitates.
I don’t think it is unfair to say that traditionally, Indigenous leaders and organisations were pretty ordinary at sharing ideas across regions. Today, we have leaders with similar mindsets who are learning from each other the country:
My observation is that Jawun has been central to that transfer of ideas and building a strong support network of leaders.
The final big impact that I observe is the role that Jawun and its partners have in advancing practical reconciliation.
One of the great challenges in the reconciliation effort is the maths. What I mean by this is that the Indigenous population is only 3 per cent and it is more concentrated in some areas than others. This means that many Australians would say (rightly or not) that they have never met an Indigenous person in their life, let alone one from a remote or regional area.
Reconciliation ultimately is about understanding each other, but that is so difficult if you don’t work together, play sport together, or can share a meal or a coffee.
The Jawun experience gives real experience to people in dealing with the issues on the ground. And when they come back – all 2000 of them – it is not just themselves who have often had a life-changing experience, but they share their experiences with others.
The corporate executive visits program is equally as powerful in this regard. I don’t know of a single business leader who has been on such a visit and not come back inspired to do more towards the cause of Indigenous advancement.
So thank you to the work of Jawun and the corporate and government partners who work with them.
Thank you for the invitation to be here today from this proud Government Minister and proud Jawun alumni.