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 Founder and 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

    CEO Cape York Partnership

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    Fiona Jose is the CEO of Cape York Partnership, an organisation dedicated to empowering Cape York Indigenous people. Known for its effects in overcoming disadvantage, Cape York Partnership is achieving real results at community, family and individual levels and has influenced approaches in Indigenous communities across Australia.

    A proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Fiona’s love for her family, culture and heritage shaped her career in empowering change for Indigenous Australians. She joined Cape York Partnership in 2010 and held senior management positions across the organisation. She has more than 15 years of experience in leadership, management, education and government relations.

    Fiona is one of eight Indigenous leaders across Australia driving change through Empowered Communities. She is a Council Member of the National Museum of Australia, and a non-Executive Director of the Board for all Cape York Partnership entities as well as Jabalbina Aboriginal Corporation.

    Fiona was awarded the For Purpose and Social Enterprise Award at the Queensland Telstra Business Women’s Awards in 2015. She was named Queensland Not-for-profit Manager of the Year by Australian Institute of Management in 2012.