Emerging Leaders 2019 – How enterprise and economic development is leading to empowerment


Founded in 2011 in response to the challenge of maintaining the continuum of reform from one generation of leaders to the next, the Jawun Emerging Leaders program has seen 48 young leaders from 10 regions participate in the program to date. The Emerging Leaders Program provides the next generation of Indigenous leaders with the opportunity to engage and connect across regions and sectors, and to bring new ideas back to their home communities. Since the inaugural program in 2011, the program has evolved and adapted to a bold and entrepreneurial idea run every two years. 

In order to run this program, Jawun has approached sponsorship in a number of ways over the years ranging from whole of program sponsorship of one or two donors, to individual sponsorship with a range of direct sponsors and philanthropic donations.  In 2019, participants were sponsored directly by a single donor for each participant.  Connections were forged between participants and donors affording opportunities for mentorship, constructive feedback, and conversations about the experience.   

Building upon previous years’ program themes of ‘local enterprises, action leadership’ and ‘driving change’, the theme of the 2019 Emerging Leaders program was ‘how enterprise and economic development is leading to empowerment. As the importance of economic development has become increasingly prioritised by Indigenous communities, the program was designed to support this agenda. For one participant from Goulburn Murray, Travis Morgan,

“Enterprise and economic development is pivotal for Indigenous people to reach parity with the broader community and to give our people the choice to be who they want to be, to write their own future the way they see it.”

The intended outcomes of the 2019 program centred on building experience, capacity and connections, with an intention to provide participants with increased awareness of the Indigenous business and policy landscape, in-place exposure to Indigenous leaders and businesses driving social and economic outcomes in diverse regions, and an understanding of practical tools for success in service delivery. The program proposes to develop participant’s confidence, presentation, and communication skills, as well as increase their connections with corporate and government stakeholders and various Indigenous leaders across regions and contexts.

The Jawun Emerging Leaders Program has fast grown over the years to become a competitive and attractive development initiative across Jawun’s regions.  Amongst the many applications received from across the regions, 8 participants from 6 regions were selected to form the 2019 cohort:

  • Renee Williams, Cape York
  • Tamara Hunting, Cape York
  • Travis Morgan, Goulburn Murray
  • Eunice Grimes, Inner Sydney
  • Amara Barnes, Inner Sydney
  • Corinne Hodson, Central Coast
  • Arian Pearson, North East Arnhem Land
  • Jessie Sleep, Far West Coast


The 2019 program continues to utilise an experiential-style format to provide participants with the opportunity to observe examples of leadership related to the theme and encourage learning through experience and dialogue.  The program was designed with the intention to give participants the knowledge and experience to effectively drive change in the long-term, a strengthened ability to lead at both organisational and community levels, and access to networks and opportunities across sectors and regions.

In line with the theme, ‘how enterprise and economic development is leading to empowerment’, the program included four key phases:

  • Phase 1:     Induction, context setting, examples of theme and Inner Sydney immersion;
  • Phase 2:     Regional immersions in West Kimberley and North East Arnhem Land;
  • Phase 3:     Canberra Masterclass; and
  • Phase 4:     Presentation and graduation

In February 2019, the group met in Redfern to begin the first phase of the program where they were immersed with local community members and corporate partners of Jawun. In both Redfern and La Perouse, the group heard first-hand from local leaders about how people and businesses are driving social and economic change. This included Shane Phillips from Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation, who offer tourism services, maritime training, and mentoring, Kirsty Masella from the Aboriginal Employment Service, and Chris Ingrey and the Young Deadlies from the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council, who are currently building their 10 year vision

The Emerging Leaders also gained insights and skills from workshops and presentations with corporate organisations. This included a presentation from KPMG on understanding the current state of Indigenous businesses and future trends, an agile methodologies workshop at Commonwealth Bank, a presentation from Downer on the shared value gained from their joint venture with Bama Services in Cape York, and a networking dinner that allowed the group to further connect, share stories, and learn from one another. As said by participant Corinne Hodson, the induction phase gave her,

Access to corporate partners, Aboriginal communities, organisations, and individuals that have proven success in creating strong and robust Indigenous business models and practises and is granting me the access to develop my own skills and networks to work with my own community.”

In Phase 2, the group split into two groups for a regional immersion in either West Kimberley or North East Arnhem Land, and were tasked with developing a study on enterprises and economic development in the region to be presented in their final presentation. In the West Kimberley, the group met with a variety of local community members driving economic empowerment, Indigenous innovation, and cultural sharing through their organisations. Highlights included a tour from Narlijia Tours, hearing Nyamba Buru Yawuru’s vision for an inclusive and sustainable economic future that places cultural principles at the centre of development, and visiting Bidyadanga to meet with the Karajarri and Bidyadanga Ranger groups to learn about their social enterprise models and on-country initiatives.

In North East Arnhem Land, the group was immersed with businesses that are driving change, particularly through employment and economic development. This included meeting the Dhimurru Rangers whose unique way of operating enables them to strengthen culture through caring for the land, visiting Gumatj Corporation’s Gulkula mine, which invests mining royalties back into businesses in the region, and also visiting Miwatj Health, one of the biggest employers of Yolngu people in the region.

In September, Phase 3 of the program commenced with a three-day Government Masterclass in Canberra, a highlight of the program overall. The Masterclass was co-sponsored by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and the Department of Finance, and was facilitated by a highly regarded Indigenous facilitator, Geoff Richardson. Over the course of three days, the group participated in a variety of sessions including navigating government, Native Title, the role of the public service, policies supporting Indigenous business, and Indigenous Procurement Policy, with the highlight being meeting with Indigenous Ministers and Senators including the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, and Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Patrick Dodson. As said by participant Tamara Hunting, these sessions encouraged,

“Confidence in myself – listening to all of the speaker’s journeys, I feel they were all honest and were there for the right reasons”. 


The 2019 Emerging Leaders program has produced strong outcomes for the group, including increased confidence in their leadership style, greater connections with corporate and government stakeholders, and stronger networks with Indigenous peers and leaders across the country:

  • 63% increase in those who felt they now had an adequate or strong awareness of the current Indigenous business landscape (38% at baseline, 100% at endline)
  • 62% increase in those for who felt adequate or strong in adopting their own individual leadership style (38% at baseline, 100% at endline)
  • 59% increase in those who feel confident or very confident in leadership situations (25% at baseline, 84% at endline)
  • 55% increase in those who felt they had adequate or strong connections with government stakeholders (13% at baseline, 67% at endline)

A key factor in achieving these outcomes was the success of the Canberra Government Masterclass sponsored by the Australia Government. The Masterclass resulted in some important learnings, with more than half of the participants agreeing that the experience would change how they worked. This included learning how to network effectively, how to utilise the mechanics of government to undertake work they are doing in their regions, how they might incorporate learnings into leadership programs at home, and how they can encourage the younger generation to be politically engaged. For Tamara Hunting, the opportunity to speak openly with government representatives has strengthened her confidence,

Having meaningful discussions with government representatives has given me the confidence to take on roles I would not have thought I would be able to contribute to in the past”.

For Corinne Hodson, the Masterclass provided an important opportunity to expand and strengthen her networks,

“The greatest benefit of having a government masterclass has been the ability to be able to network with other emerging leaders from around the country and to be able to reflect on the similarities as well as the differences for each of our regions and individual leadership journeys.”

For the overall program, feedback from participants so far indicates there has been an increased understanding of the current Indigenous business landscape, greater exposure to Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses creating social and economic outcomes, stronger capability using agile work practices, and greater confidence in leadership situations:            

“I have increased confidence in leadership situations, but also increased confidence to seek assistance from those who I trust in leadership to get knowledge and advice about specific situations.”    – Corinne Hodson.  

Next steps

Jawun is very excited that as part of Jawun’s 20-year anniversary, the 2019 Emerging Leaders along with the 49 former Emerging Leader Alumni will be invited to come together to reflect on their respective leadership journeys through a 2-day Jawun Emerging Leaders Reconnect & Intensive Workshop.   

Jawun will use this opportunity to share our thinking for the future of the Emerging Leaders program and will continue to work with the Regional leadership to identify and recruit the right candidates for future programs.