Emerging Leaders 2021 – Collaborative leadership to drive change


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 60 young leaders from 10 regions participate 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 and organisations. Since the inaugural program in 2011, the program has evolved and adapted to a bold and experiential idea run every 2 years. 

Building upon previous years’ program themes of‘action leadership’, ‘driving change’, and ‘enterprise and empowerment’ the theme of the 2021 Emerging Leaders program ‘collaborative leadership to drive change’ was selected to preparefor the increasing prominence of local and national Indigenous reform initiatives such as Empowered Communities, the Regional Voice, and the Voice to Parliament. Rickii-Lee Woibo, a 2021 Emerging Leader from Cape York, describes how to her, collaboration means:

“The sharing of ideas, ethos, and skills to deliver better, stronger outcomes for everyone. It’s not just about organisations, it’s about people and their skills, aspirations and needs. I want to be part of that change, I want to help people to make the change.”

The intended outcomes of the 2021 program centre on building experience, capacity and connections, providing participants with increased awareness of Indigenous reform agendas and the EC approach, in-place exposure to Indigenous leaders driving social and economic outcomes in diverse regions, and an understanding of practical tools and approaches to support collaboration in order to successfully achieve change. The program proposes to develop participants’ 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 Emerging Leaders program has grown quickly over the years to become a competitive and attractive development initiative across Jawun’s regions. Ten participants from 7 regions were selected to form the 2021 cohort. For the first time, 2 participants from the National Indigenous Australians Agency have also been selected to join the program. The participants in the 2021 cohort are:

  • Rickii-Lee Woibo, Cape York
  • Jenni Nixon, Central Australia
  • Munatji Mckenzie, Central Australia
  • Amy Parry, Central Coast
  • Breannon Field, Central Coast
  • Chanoa Cooper, Goulburn Murray
  • Danny Allende, Inner Sydney
  • Lily Miles, Inner Sydney
  • Dorothy Kartinyeri, Lower River Murray
  • Sarah Parriman, West Kimberley
  • Callan Nickerson, National Indigenous Australians Agency
  • Joshua McKinnon, National Indigenous Australians Agency


The 2021 program gives participants the opportunity to observe examples of collaborative leadership and encourages learning through experience and dialogue. The program was designed 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, ‘collaborative leadership to drive change’, the program included 4 key phases:

  • Phase 1:     Induction, context setting, examples of theme and Inner Sydney immersion
  • Phase 2:     Regional immersion in East Kimberley
  • Phase 3:     Canberra Government Masterclass
  • Phase 4:     Presentation and graduation

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response, the program was shifted online to continue engagement and provide learning until the cohort could return to in-place programming in 2022. This gave Jawun the opportunity to engage closely with our corporate partners to provide engaging, relevant, and useful workshops for the cohort. Key corporate and Indigenous partners have hosted meaningful sessions that reflect the goals of the cohort including; self-care and resilience (CBA), approaches to problem-solving and slide design (BCG), social media and LinkedIn (KPMG), leadership in times of crisis (Qantas), presentation skills (Allens), understanding individual strengths (Magda Khalil), the Inner Sydney Empowered Communities approach (Michael Ingrey), collaborating locally and nationally (Tyronne Garstone), and the Emerging Leaders experience (Amara Barnes).


Despite the program being unable to run in-place, the virtual Emerging Leaders program has seen strong engagement from the cohort, new opportunities for corporate partners to connect with Indigenous leaders, and has strengthened Jawun’s approach to the virtual model overall. The value of the virtual inductions led to the delivery of 4 additional workshops throughout the year, which has kept the group engaged until in-place support returns in 2022. 

Key takeaways have been highlighted through the cohort’s individual reflections:

“The virtual sessions gave us a rare opportunity to deep dive into the leadership journey of some of Australia’s top corporate leaders. It was great to hear about the diverse paths each presenter took to become leaders and senior people in their organisation. Each session was different to the last yet each provided thought provoking discussion and insight into what it takes to be a successful leader.”

Callan Nickerson

“Talking about self-care – Finding balance between your personal and your professional life. We explored a lot topics and found what we have in common, which has helped to build a relationship between us all.”

Munatji Mckenzie

“Sticking to the end game and keeping your vision in check. When everything is coming at you, you’ve got to just stick at it.”

Jenni Nixon

Next Steps

Jawun looks forward to the return of the in-place Emerging Leaders program in May 2022 with the group meeting in Sydney, the East Kimberley, and Canberra, before the finale is held in Sydney in September. To maintain engagement with the cohort, Westpac will also be facilitating a 4-part virtual workshop on emotional resilience commencing in February 2022.