‘The Value in Virtual’ – Strategic Communications and Partnering planning with Barang


Jawun has partnered with the Barang Regional Alliance since its establishment in 2014 as a regional representative body for the Central Coast Aboriginal community. Barang has been the unified voice to government for the Central Coast region through the federal Empowered Communities and NSW State Government Local Decision-Making reform programs.

The Barang Regional Alliance represents 7 ‘opt-in’ member organisations including NAISDA Dance College, The Glen Centre Darkinjung LALC, Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Service, Gudjagang Ngara Li-dhi, Bara Barang and Mingaletta.

The Central Coast Regional Development Agenda developed by Barang outlines the regional and priority initiatives across the development domains of Families, Health, Culture and Economic Independence.

To date, 28 secondees were involved in the scoping, development and establishment of Barang and a further 26 secondees have supported the development and delivery of Barang’s regional priorities.

In 2020, Barang identified communications and strategic partnering as priority secondment projects to continue supporting their opt-in organisations to deliver against the Regional Development Agenda priorities. As Barang Operations Manager (and Jawun Emerging Leader alumni) Gary Field explained,

“This was not necessarily a business as usual approach for the Barang team, but, with the uncertainty of the Indigenous affairs portfolio, and our need to influence in a more direct and targeted way – we will be utilizing those skills and tools that were shared.”


In early 2020, Dan Royal from CBA supported Barang to develop an initial stakeholder engagement approach, developing a framework and tools to identify, segment and prioritise Barang’s stakeholders.

Following the outbreak of Covid and Jawun’s pivot to virtual secondment delivery, Louise Healey from the NSW Government worked in concert with APS – Austrade secondee, Shelley Jackson, to lead the development of a communication and partnerships strategy.

Fellow APS – DFAT secondee, Tim Stapleton, augmented the strategic partnering work, developing a government engagement strategy with practical tools to enable the adoption of engagement practices into the Barang team’s everyday ways of working. Gary Field from Barang also observed that,

“With the movement from in place to virtual secondments, Barang has been the beneficiary of a different calibre of secondee…. it’s allowed an opportunity to people who otherwise wouldn’t be comfortable leaving families for up to 6 weeks at a time.”

For instance, Louise and Shelley were able to contribute their specialist communication and trade promotion skills while managing family responsibilities, whilst Tim could lend his Trade Ambassador experience while in Covid lockdown in the Australian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


The delivery of strategic planning augmented by practical tools across the linked secondments is best described by Gary Field’s feedback on the communications strategy project:  

“Louise has assisted Barang Regional Alliance to improve our ability to plan, implement and control our communication and engagement with our stakeholders through targeted communication pieces…. Louise shared the importance of being able to language our vision, stating that ‘powerful messages are already available’, we just need to use what is in the materials developed.”

Skills transfer from secondees to the staff and supervisors of their host Indigenous organisations is a secondment goal, with Gary Field’s feedback showing how this was still achieved in the virtual secondment environment:

“This secondment has seen Barang and opt-in staff stretch their current skills, develop new skills, and of course create really solid relationships with both Tim, but equally members of various government departments that he has assisted us with…. Tim was able to drive our ‘value proposition’ utilising the ‘convening power’ that this alliance holds due to our uniqueness and significance”.

A further Jawun secondment goal is two-way learning, with the secondees delivering outcomes and transferring skills as well as learning about Aboriginal communities and culture to inform their everyday thinking.

Following her secondment, APS – Austrade secondee Shelley Jackson is pursuing an opportunity to,

“Create more learning and share resources and experiences for our global network to learn about our Indigenous culture, history and people.”

Insights gained from Jawun have helped Austrade to augment their training and resources for expanding both their APS and global team’s understanding of Indigenous culture, history and knowledge, and this is helping create more powerful ways in promoting trade and investment.

Next Steps 

With strategic plans in the areas of communications, engagement and advocacy developed, Barang are looking to operationalise these across their own organisation and the 7 ‘Opt-in’ organisations that comprise the Alliance. Barang are currently being supported by Caroline Perryman from the ABC with a media engagement and training secondment project and will be supported in the next round with a CBA secondee delivered a digital engagement design and capacity building secondment.

Effective communications and partnering is as important as ever as organisations respond to Covid with new ways of working.

As Shelley Jackson reflected upon finishing her secondment:        

“I feel very optimistic for Australia. I think the Australian national identity will be all the more powerful when shaped by a vision that is truly all of ours and brings forward the strengths of Aboriginal people, place and culture.”