Jawun Story

The Jawun Story. Voice-over by Deborah Mailman. Video by SOTA Creative.

Established in 2001, Jawun (which means ‘friend’ in the Kuku Yalanji language of Mossman Gorge) is an innovative not-for-profit organisation.

Jawun partners with Indigenous communities in place-based capacity building, to empower Indigenous-led change and foster meaningful connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Jawun places skilled people from Australia’s leading companies and government agencies into Indigenous organisations. These secondees share their expertise and support Indigenous leaders to achieve their own development goals.

  • 1995


    In a meeting between The Body Shop and Cape York Indigenous leaders, including Noel Pearson, the concept of an 'Indigenous Business Institute' (IBI) emerges. This would act as a business incubator and provide business courses to Indigenous people throughout Asia Pacific, starting in Cape York in Queensland.

  • 2000

    Vision published

    Noel Pearson’s paper 'Our Right to Take Responsibility' articulates the existence of 'passive welfare' in Indigenous communities and the need to create a 'real economy'.

  • 2000

    Weipa summit

    The IBI, Westpac and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) meet at Weipa in Queensland. IBI agrees to adopt the 'real economy' as its underlying philosophy. It also expands its aim to foster economic and social development, focusing on long-term, sustainable impacts that will help break welfare dependency.

  • 2001

    IBI becomes IEP

    The IBI evolves into Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships (IEP) based on Noel Pearson’s paper 'Our Right to Take Responsibility', which maps out partnership ideas between corporate, philanthropic and Indigenous organisations in Cape York.

  • 2001

    Westpac and BCG secondees

    The first round of Westpac and BCG secondees begin work in Cape York.

  • 2001


    The Myer Foundation becomes a partner.

  • 2003

    Westpac Fellowship Trust

    The first longer-term secondments of around 12 months are sent from Westpac.

  • 2003


    The Colonial Foundation becomes a major partner.

  • 2003


    Cisco becomes a partner.

  • 2006

    More support

    The Colonial Foundation and the Australian Government commit to longer-term support, and the commercial lawyers Gilbert and Tobin become partners.

  • 2006

    Second region

    IEP starts work in Goulburn Murray in Victoria.

  • 2007

    First KPMG & IBM secondees

    The first round of KPMG and IBM secondees begin work in Cape York.

  • 2007


    Freehills becomes a partner.

  • 2007

    Secondees reach 500

    The total number of secondees sent to Cape York since IEP began reaches 500.

  • 2008

    Cape York Welfare Reform pilot

    The Cape York Welfare Reform pilot commences in four Cape York communities.

  • 2009

    Jawun alumni starts

    Past secondees form a network to share experiences with each other.

  • 2009


    Wesfarmers becomes a partner.

  • 2010

    Celebrate 10th anniversary

    IEP celebrates its 10th anniversary and success as a unique Indigenous corporate partnership model.

  • 2010

    Two more regions

    IEP starts work in Redfern NSW and the East Kimberley WA.

  • 2010

    More support

    Leighton Holdings, Leighton Contractor, John Holland, nab, Tourism Australia, Rio Tinto and the Western Australian Government all become partners.

  • 2010

    Renamed Jawun

    IEP changes its name to Jawun. Creative agency Banjo designs new branding and logo, and Lavender designs and builds new website.

  • 2011

    More support

    Allens, Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and QBE Foundation become partners.

  • 2011

    Commonwealth Government support

    State and Commonwealth Government departments start to send employees on secondments under the Jawun program.

  • 2012

    More support

    News Ltd, Woodside and BHP Billiton become partners.

  • 2012

    Sydney program expands to La Perouse

    The Jawun program expands from Redfern to include the Sydney community of La Perouse. The region is now known as 'Inner Sydney'.

  • 2012

    KPMG becomes a national partner for three years

    KPMG becomes a national partner for three years, working in all of Jawun's regions.

  • 2012

    Secondees reach 1000

    The total number of secondees sent since Jawun began reaches 1000.

  • 2012

    Two new regions

    Jawun starts work on the Central Coast NSW and North East Arnhem Land NT.

  • 2012

    East Kimberley program expands to West Kimberley

    The Jawun program expands from the East Kimberley to include the West Kimberley region in WA.

  • 2013

    New partners

    Telstra, Perpetual and Woolworths Liquor become partners.

  • 2014

    New partners

    Macquarie, Downer, RAC, IAG, Suncorp and Norton Rose Fulbright become partners.

  • 2015

    New regions and new partners

    Jawun starts work in two regions: Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Lands; and, Lower River Murray, Lakes and Coorong region of SA. The NSW Government, SA Government, RAA and City of Melbourne become partners.

  • 2016

    New partners join, Jawun reaches 2000 secondees

    IBM, TAL and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank become partners.

  • 2017

    New region and new partners

    Jawun starts work in the Far West Coast region of SA. The University of Melbourne, BlueScope, and Fortescue Metals Group become partners.

  • 2018

    New partners

    ABC, Curtin University, Geelong Cats and Microsoft become partners.

  • 2019

    3000 Jawun Alumni & 1000 Executive Visit Attendees

    In March 2019, Jawun placed the 3000th secondee to live and work in an Indigenous community. This was a major milestone in supporting Indigenous-led empowerment, and forging connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. https://jawun.org.au/3000-secondees/

    In November 2019, Jawun celebrated another milestone: 1000 senior corporate and government leaders had visited an Indigenous community to witness Indigenous-led change in place.

  • 2020

    New region and Jawun's 20th year anniversary

    Jawun partners with the South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council in Jawun's 11th region, South West Australia.

    2020 marks Jawun's 20th year anniversary.