People ridign camels on the beach

Jawun programme gives staff insight into Indigenous culture

The Australian Government is partnering with not-for-profit organization Jawun to bring public service and corporate expertise into Indigenous communities across Australia through the Jawun Indigenous Community Secondment Programme.

Jawun, meaning ‘friend’, places skilled people from Australia’s government agencies and leading companies into Indigenous organisations to build the capacity of Indigenous communities.

During a Jawun placement, employees spend a period of time working on projects that assist Indigenous communities on the ground.

Last year, Department of Human Services staff member Julie Jordan from Newcastle, took part in the programme. Not only did it exceed her expectations, it gave her a wonderful insight into Indigenous culture and the issues Indigenous people face.

Julie spent 15 weeks working with Aarnja Ltd – an emerging Kimberley-based organisation co-located with Kimberley Land Council.

“Established in 2012, Aarnja liaises with state and federal governments on behalf of the approximately 250 remote Indigenous Kimberley communities to influence the types of services and programmes delivered to these communities,” Julie said.

“With my employment and training background, my role involved developing HR services, including a full suite of position documents Aarnja can pick up and run with when they’re ready to recruit permanent staff.”

Julie quickly learnt Aarnja’s work to empower Indigenous people to have a voice on what affects them isn’t a 9 to 5 job.

“Janine Dureau, an Indigenous colleague from Aarnja, took me under her wing and invited me into her home and family,” Julie said.

“Countless times, dynamic discussions with community members took place on Janine’s back deck at night about how to frame messages and influence Government policy.

“I went into the secondment with the aim of living in the moment and experiencing everything the Kimberley and its people had to offer, so participated in every available out-of-hours activity. I soon realised this gave me a better understanding of how to approach the work I was there to do.

While there are a number of experiences on Julie’s secondment she won’t forget, one particularly stands out.

“The highlight for me was attending the Ngurrara Women’s Camp – a 2 day cultural camp to strengthen the bond between young Indigenous women and Elders, and teach the young women their traditional responsibilities.

“Listening to stories from country from local Elders reinforced for me the importance of respect, listening and family.

“The trip to this camp was an 8 hour drive. When the question was asked about whether it would be better to fly, the response was ‘This is about the journey, not the destination’. And so it proved – as we drove the car filled up with people who needed a lift, and there were lots of useful informal discussions.”

Self-discovery was another important outcome of Julie’s Jawun experience.

“I came back more reflective and in less of a hurry, as well as a lot more comfortable with myself,” Julie said.

“I learnt the value of taking time out in peaceful environments to replenish myself so I can better tackle issues. As a manager of 19 people, this was an invaluable lesson.

“I also learnt the importance of not making assumptions. On a trip to Wangkatjungka outside Fitzroy Crossing for community consultations I met an Indigenous man decked out in a pair of board shorts without shoes who has a doctorate in physics.

“I also met Elder, Olive Knight, who’s starred on stage with Hugh Jackman in New York and listened to her speak at a community meeting about connection to country. These people exist in 2 different worlds but the pull of culture, family and community is strongest for them.”

Julie is currently exploring how she can make a positive contribution to our dealings with Indigenous customers.

More information

Read more about assistance for Indigenous Australians.