Jawun Development Program

Jawun is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at building the capacity of Indigenous people and communities, and promoting self-reliance, entrepreneurial activity and business planning. Jawun means 'friend' or 'family', an honour given to the organisation by the Kuku Yalanji people of Mossman Gorge in Queensland's Cape York.

The Jawun Development Program, a Signature Project of the University's Reconciliation Action Plan April 2018 – December 2022, places talented University staff into Indigenous organisations to work on initiatives that:

  • build the capacity of, and support for, Indigenous individuals and organisations to achieve their goals
  • assist Indigenous people to access mainstream economic and educational opportunities
  • provide opportunities for non-Indigenous secondees to strengthen their cultural competence
  • support Indigenous people to bring about health and social reform.

The Jawun Development Program includes:

  • an Employee Secondment Program of six-week residential placements providing opportunities for staff to experience paid secondments with Indigenous-led community organisations
  • an Executive Program providing two- to three-day visits for executive leaders to learn more about the Jawun Development Program in order to sponsor and advocate for secondments across the University.
Discover more about Jawun

"The abundance of forward-looking leadership was inspiring.  The leaders we met shared flashes of insight into the challenges faced by their communities following generations of damage, tragedy and broken promises.  Some of the stories gave us goose-bumps, but still, the leaders we met are finding sustainable ways to move forward despite deep scepticism on many fronts – both from within the community, and from outside.  A powerful example was the wild flower growing business in the Murray River, providing the opportunity to care for the land and provide meaningful employment and economic development."

Ken Jefferd
Executive Director, Research, Innovation and Commercialisation

Jawun Executive Program


Our secondees

Gemma BarryGemma Barry, Team Leader (Learning and Teaching) at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Gemma was seconded to Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation, South Australia, in February-March 2019. She was based at the Ceduna Youth Hub, supporting the implementation of the Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS), an initiative of the Australian Government designed to increase school attendance as a key Closing the Gap measure.

“Jawun was such an awakening experience for me. Not only did I gain a deeper perspective into the real reasons why a gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities exist but I witnessed the implications of this on children’s education. Schools are often experienced as an unfamiliar (and sometimes unwelcoming) environment for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. I felt really privledged to work alongside the RSAS team in helping to bridge this gap between these families and schools. Inspired by the amazing Indigenous leaders in this community who have a strong sense of purpose, I am now a stronger advocate for breaking down access and inclusion barriers to education”.

Ben PearceBen PearceProject Manager (Indigenous Strategy), Strategy and Culture, Chancellery, spent six weeks in Shepparton in August 2019.  He was based at the Kaiela Institute where he helped identify strategic opportunities within the Goulburn Valley that contribute to regional self-governance for the Yorta Yorta people.

“I was fortunate to spend an incredible six-week secondment at the Kaiela Institute - an Indigenous-led think tank within the Goulburn Murray region of Victoria. Over the six weeks, I was tasked to help broker mutually beneficial strategic partnerships between local organisations and the University of Melbourne, and to support a sustainable regional self-governance model. The enduring legacy of leadership, strength and resilience within community was inspiring – reflected in the collective aspiration of Yorta Yorta youth and emerging leaders. A sincere and special thank you to Kaiela Institute staff for welcoming me and sharing your vision for a self-determined and culturally affirmed future for Yorta Yorta people.”

For more information about the Jawun Development Program contact:

Leesa Middleton, Capability and Talent Advisor

leesa.middleton@unimelb.edu.au