Cape York


Cape York is on the northern tip of Queensland and encompasses all of the area north of Cairns.

Cape York is home to Noel Pearson and the birthplace of Jawun. Jawun (or Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships) has been operational in Cape York since 2001, longer than in any other region.

There are 17 Indigenous communities in Cape York.

According to the 2016 ABS Census:

  • 16,929 people live in Cape York, of which 9,453 (56%) identified as Indigenous
  • 53% of Indigenous 20–24 year olds completed Year 12 or equivalent compared to 86% for the non-Indigenous population
  • 45% of the Indigenous workforce-age population are employed full time compared to 70% for the non-Indigenous population

Noel Pearson’s paper ‘Our Right to Take Responsibility’, published in 2000, set the early agenda for Cape York as well as Jawun itself. In 2005, Noel Pearson’s ‘Cape York Agenda’ – the right of Cape York people to have the capabilities ‘to choose a life that they have reason to value’ – became the new foundation for much of the work in the region, including the Cape York Welfare Reform program.

Cape York Welfare Reform was a new approach to welfare that was initially trialled in the Cape York communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge. The reforms, which have been in place since 2008, are based on the view that in order to engage individuals in the real economy, and for there to be social development in communities, four things must occur:

  • Rebuilding of norms
  • Reform of incentives
  • Normalisation of housing
  • A retreat of government from the domain of individual responsibility

In 2018 a new Agenda, Pama Futures, has been developed following extensive community engagement to concentrate on a sustainable future for all communities in Cape York.