Cape York


Cape York is on the northern tip of Queensland and encompasses all of the area north of Cairns. There are 17 Indigenous communities in Cape York.

Cape York is also home to Noel Pearson and the birthplace of Jawun. Here Jawun works side by side with Cape York Indigenous organisations and leaders.

According to the ABS Census:

  • 16,929 people live in Cape York, of which 9,453 (56%) identified as Indigenous (2016)
  • The median age of Indigenous people is 23 years compared to 34 years for the non-Indigenous population (2016)
  • 34.2% of Indigenous 20–24 year olds complete Year 12 or equivalent compared to 43.4% for the non-Indigenous population (2016)
  • 17.2% of the Indigenous workforce-age population are unemployed compared to 5% for the non-Indigenous population (2011 – 2016 disaggregated data not yet available)

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’ 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