Cape York

Local Leadership

Jawun works with local Indigenous leaders to help determine priorities for the Cape York region.


  • Noel Pearson

    Founder and Director of Strategy, Cape York Partnership; Chairman, Good to Great Schools Australia; Jawun Patron

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    Noel Pearson comes from the Guugu Yimidhirr community of Hopevale on South Eastern Cape York Peninsula.  He is an Indigenous Australian, land rights activist and a history and law graduate of the University of Sydney.

    Noel is the Founder and Director of Strategy of the Cape York Partnership (CYP) and Chairman of Good to Great Schools Australia (GGSA).

    CYP is the parent company of the Cape York Institute, Cape York Enterprises, Djarragun College, Cape York Employment, Cape York Timber and Bama Services

    GGSA supports schools to transition from Poor to Fair, Fair to Good and Good to Great. GGSA’s education program was developed by the Cape York Academy for its three primary schools: Aurukun, Coen and Hope Vale. It is responsible for delivering significant improvements in literacy and numeracy in these schools.

    Noel’s goal is to enable Cape York’s Indigenous people to have the capacity to choose the life they have reason to value by reinstating the rights of Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their lives.

  • Richie Ah Mat

    Chairman, Cape York Land Council

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    Richard (Richie) Ah Mat was elected as the Chairperson of Cape York Land Council (CYLC) in December 2009. Richie is a Wuthathi and Yupungathi man with traditional lands on both the east coast (Shelburne Bay) and west coast (Pennefather) of Cape York.

    Richie worked for Comalco for 27 years and was the first Aboriginal man to hold the position of President of a Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Lodge. In this position, he led the strike against Comalco in the mid-1990s opposing reduced entitlements and individual employee contracts. During this time he suffered a near fatal accident which saw the loss of this left leg in 1996. It was during this time that he became heavily involved in the fight for native title rights in Cape York.

    Richie was first elected as Chairperson of the CYLC in 1997. After serving his fourth term, he moved into the position of Executive Director of CYLC in 2001 and held this position until 2005. Following this role, Richie moved into consultancy work supporting Cape York Regional Organisations (CYRO) and become heavily involved in the Welfare Reform Agenda in the Cape. Richie served as the Chairperson of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) from 2008 to 2009 and continues to represent Cape York on the NAILSMA Board of Directors. In 2009, Richie returned to CYLC to lead the organisation in the fight for native title rights in Cape York, and to support CYRO in their fight for improved education, recognition, welfare reform, economic development and housing ownership for Aboriginal people in Cape York.

  • Fiona Jose

    General Manager, Cape York Partnership

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    Fiona Jose is the General Manager of Cape York Partnership, an Indigenous policy reform and leadership organisation dedicated to empowering Cape York Indigenous people. She is responsible for managing the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, an innovator in national Indigenous affairs policy, Opportunity Hubs that are the operational heart of the welfare reform initiative in Cape York communities, and Cape York Employment, an organisation breaking new ground in work participation, training and work mobility.

    Fiona is a dedicated Indigenous woman of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and an advocate for Indigenous policy and leadership development. She was appointed CEO of Cape York Institute in December 2012. It was her dream job, to which she brought a wealth of experience spanning almost two decades in business management roles in both the government and private sectors in industries ranging from education to aviation and training.

    In 2012, Fiona was named Queensland ‘Not-for-profit Manager of the Year’ by the Australian Institute of Management, and was a State Finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. Remarkably, she finds time to sit on the Board of several community organisations.

  • James Fa'Aoso

    Head of Leadership, Cape York Partnership

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    James has a strong affiliation to Cape York through his mother with the communities Bamaga, Seisia and Saibai Island. He is a clan member of the Kadal (crocodile) and Samu (cassowary) people. James joined the Cape York Leaders Program as the Manager of People Excellence in early 2011. Prior to this, he was the North Queensland Zonal Manager for Safe Places for Children, an organisation set up to assist children in care from the Department of Child Safety. He played an integral role in building the organisation from the ground up. James has worked across the community, volunteer, private and public sectors. He is currently involved in the volunteer sector as Youth Counsellor and Leader for his church. James also helps operate a self‐defence gym and trains youth and adults in self‐defence and leadership.  James was a member of the Jawun Emerging Leaders Program in 2013.