Pioneering a new model: NAB’s virtual secondees in Western Australia


Since 2010, Jawun has partnered with National Australia Bank (NAB) to strengthen organisational capacity and progress Indigenous-led initiatives in the East and West Kimberley. When COVID-19 forced physical isolation across the states and regions, shutting down Jawun secondments from April onwards, Jawun worked in collaboration with corporate, government and Indigenous partners to launch a virtual secondment offering to our 11 regions to continue to support capacity-building through this difficult period. While this was an uncertain time for both Jawun and NAB, NAB were quick to respond, and played a critical role in the pilot of Jawun’s virtual program in the East Kimberley. To date, NAB have sent 8 virtual secondees across 3 regions, equivalent to over 750 hours of support to 8 Indigenous organisations.

NAB secondees have brought a wide range of skills to virtual secondments including financial analysis, project management,  customer service, administration, human resources, communication, governance, compliance, and legal skills. Projects supported range from the development of a marketing strategy for Waringarri Aboriginal Arts in the East Kimberley, to a financing model for KRED Enterprises in the West Kimberley. 


While COVID-19 was placing strain on Indigenous partner organisations across the country, leading to requests for support from Jawun, Jawun’s corporate and government partners were simultaneously asking what assistance they could provide. This led to a consultation process between Jawun, community, and corporate and government partners to address the possibility of virtual secondments. While acknowledging the limits of working virtually, the secondments would provide a flexible opportunity for a secondee to join one of the nation’s Indigenous organisations with a minimum pledge of 100 hours, deliver on a project brief to ensure real value-add, receive support from a Jawun Regional Director to ensure strong outcomes, access cultural experiences through video-conferencing, and join a national cohort of secondees to amplify their connections and impact.  

Despite the uncertainty, NAB responded strongly to virtual secondments, which aligned to the culture and values of their organisation. Given their strong volunteering culture, a Jawun secondment was considered as an opportunity for high performing staff to share their skills with an organisation. NAB also saw how a virtual secondment could compliment an in-place experience, offering the possibility for a virtual secondee to visit a region or complete an in-place in the future. The flexibility of working from home also opened up the potential for people who had not had been able to participate in a six-week in-place secondment due to other responsibilities. NAB also matched in-place Jawun Alumni with virtual secondees to provide mentoring, and further context to the Jawun program.  As illustrated by Kate Twyford, Senior Associate, Strategic Giving and coordinator of the Jawun program at NAB

“During the pandemic, Jawun created a unique opportunity that still held valuable cultural significance through an outstanding online secondment experience. This flexibility allowed our colleagues the opportunity to get involved, despite the constraints of COVID-19. The secondment provided many opportunities to learn and develop, as well as providing a way to give back to the community during a difficult time and focus on a project whereby they can see their skills and expertise making a difference.”

Senior NAB leaders have played a key role in the volume of support NAB has offered to virtual secondments, who have endorsed and supported the Jawun program across its entire 34,000-strong workforce. Susan Ferrier, Group Executive, People & Culture remarked: 

“I’m so incredibly proud that our organisation has been a pioneer in helping Jawun to create a new and exciting platform through which we can harness the capability of our colleagues to make a contribution like this, while providing a unique learning opportunity for them as well.” 


As a result of the enthusiasm and dedication of NAB secondees, strong outcomes have been achieved across a wide variety of projects for both Indigenous partner organisations, and in return for NAB secondees.

100% of Indigenous partner organisations felt that skills were transferred by NAB virtual secondees. Partners remarked that skills transferred included website marketing, recruitment,  project management, and increased ability to work effectively in a virtual environment. For example, Wunan in the East Kimberley were supported by NAB secondee Ryan Novak (Consultant – Inclusion & Diversity Program Delivery) with a Human Resources Support Model. As a pilot virtual secondee, the outcomes achieved were exciting for Wunan, Jawun, and NAB. As remarked by Ryan’s manager at Wunan,

“Ryan was able to transfer a wealth of knowledge in the area of recruitment. These newly learnt ‘tricks of the trade’ have now been transferred across to Wunan and are now embedded in our updated recruitment docs, process guides and know-how. Wunan will be providing training to all managers at Wunan on our updated recruitment process including how to conduct effective interviews as the hiring manager.”

For Ryan, the value of the secondment was felt in return.

“I’ve got skills I didn’t know I had, and I’ve developed skills in areas that I previously didn’t have the opportunity to do so, and you really throw yourself into the deep end.”

Ryan also went on to become a fantastic internal advocate for Jawun virtual secondments, speaking at numerous events to gather more interest in Jawun’s pivoted model. Ryan’s enthusiasm for his secondment speaks to the reciprocal value gained by partner organisations and secondees. 100% of NAB virtual secondees felt the secondment improved their professional and personal effectiveness.

Despite secondees’ inability to be in-place, NAB secondees still drove long-term outcomes for Indigenous partners in the virtual environment. 100% of Indigenous partners felt outputs from NAB secondments would improve organisational outcomes delivered over time. As one partner remarked of a secondee’s work on a business plan for Wunan’s new health centre,

“Monitoring of KPIs including financial, patient satisfaction, and staff engagement will provide the Wunan Board and CEO with an overview of how the health centre is operating. It will support decision making by managers and contribute to quality improvements. Individual team members will also be able to track their own performance and see how they are directly contributing to the mission of the health centre and the organisation as a whole.”

NAB secondees also provided key support to Indigenous organisations whose operations were impacted by COVID-19. Stephanie Kean, a Senior Consultant with NAB worked to communicate the Waringarri Art Centre’s initiatives to a digital audience. She remarked how,

“COVID has seen a reduction in foot traffic sales and tours, so my secondment is seeking assistance to pivot, and the skills and tools required for that to happen. Things like virtual exhibitions, online events, optimising the website, best practice ideas for social media and a cookie cutter approach to digital marketing that needs less resources in the future.”

In turn, Steph’s manager at Waringarri noted how her work,

“Increased sales via website and effectively reach global audiences”

Further, various NAB secondees spoke of how the virtual secondment was a welcome distraction from the COVID-19 environment, offering an opportunity to support Indigenous-led work while making new connections, and deepening their understanding of Indigenous Australia. 100% of virtual NAB secondees felt the secondment improved their understanding of Indigenous people and contexts, and were more motivated to actively follow and learn about Indigenous affairs. As one secondee remarked about her experience with Wunan Health’s Principal GP, and their holistic community health practice,

“It was a really positive experience meeting Stephanie Trust and getting her views on remote health, the challenges they currently face at the medical centre, and the way she sees the centre being able to contribute to the future direction of remote and indigenous health. The secondee group I was part of was also hugely passionate about learning more about Indigenous culture and issues, and I’ve learnt a lot from them and come away with a myriad of resources to continue my learning.”

Next Steps

Given the success of virtual secondments, and the continued uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, Jawun will operate with a hybrid model of in-place and virtual secondments for 2021.  Both Jawun Indigenous, corporate, and government partners recognise the importance of the in-place model, and Jawun plans to return to 6-week in-place secondments from May, whilst utilising the key learnings of our virtual adaptation to complement the core model.  NAB will continue to support Jawun with this adapted model, and Jawun is excited to be facilitating NAB secondees in 2021.

Looking forward, Jawun intends to roll out a Milbiwi platform, the result of a lengthy co-design process, which will give established Indigenous partners the opportunity to access the virtual support of Jawun secondment alumni for their strategic growth, and will also be embedded in two-way connection and learning. This initiative will build on the learnings of virtual secondments, made possible by dedicated partners such as NAB.