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Empowered Communities in the

West Kimberley

The West Kimberley’s Indigenous leaders, known for

their ability to harness opportunities and enterprise

to tackle social challenges, set up Empowered

Communities backbone organisation Aarnja to

facilitate a reform agenda. ‘Community first’ priorities

of children and young people were agreed, and

12 organisations have opted in.

A Kimberley Aboriginal Young Leaders program

was created in 2016, supported by a series of

Jawun secondees, to provide peer-to-peer life

skills and other support to enable young people

to make positive choices. To date, 17 participants

have developed their leadership capabilities and

confidence through the program.

In late 2016, Children in Care and Aarnja

collaborations began with the Western Australian

Government. This included a Kimberley Aboriginal

Children in Care Committee, which has developed

innovative policy proposals to address drastic over-

representation of Kimberley Aboriginal children in

state care (99% of children in Western Australian state

care in the West Kimberley are Indigenous, which is

54% of the child population)

. 45

A Kimberley Aboriginal

Youth Suicide Prevention Forum in May 2017 was

attended by local leaders (including past and present

participants of Jawun’s Emerging Leaders). Both the

children in care committee and the suicide prevention

forum showcased the improved collaboration across

local organisations and with government, heralded

as a success of the strengthening Empowered

Communities agenda in West Kimberley.

Then, in mid-2017, a Dampier Peninsula Road

Working Group was created to focus on how the

$65 million road upgrade project would protect

culture, lifestyle and country, and bring economic

opportunities to improve the quality of life of

Indigenous communities connected by the road

to Broome. An extension of reform thinking in the

region, this community–government collaboration

benefits from the convening role of Empowered

Communities and is a vehicle for its priority to foster

generational change.

The vital importance of the West Kimberley’s focus

on children and young people is explained by June

Oscar AO, former CEO of Jawun partner organisation

Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre,

and now Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social

Justice Commissioner:

Our children are our future, our community has

always known this and our ancestors have always

known this. We have to surround our children

with the world they want to live in and deserve to

live in. That is their fundamental human right.

These organisations and businesses we establish

must have children front and centre in all our

policy and business decisions. We should hold

ourselves accountable to our decisions being the

best for our children.

Over 30 Jawun secondees have supported

Empowered Communities in West Kimberley

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From left: Woodside secondee Shanine Ryan with Aarnja staff Divina D’Anna and Jeri Sein, 2017.

Photo: Aarnja Ltd