RES supported ‘Yarning Up’ Program helps close the gap in Lockhart River

For the third year, RES Executive Director Leann Wilson has co-hosted a delegation of business leaders and educators from across Australia for a five-day Indigenous cultural immersion trip to Lockhart River (Qld) alongside Bond University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Pathways and Partnerships, Catherine O’Sullivan.

The award-winning ‘Yarning Up’ program co-designed by Leann and Catherine is part of the University’s Indigenous Education Strategy. The make-up of this year’s group expanded on the original ‘Women Yarning Up’ concept by including men and women representing a cross-section of educators and high-achieving business leaders.

The group spent five days in Lockhart River, visiting the local primary school, childcare facility, health centre, shelters and the renowned Lockhart River Art Centre, speaking to community leaders, Elders, educators, community service workers and families about the challenges and opportunities associated with living in a remote Indigenous community.

“We found that there was strong interest in the program from people outside the education sector and, for 2016, we decided to extend the invitation to representatives from the corporate world who support Bond University’s Indigenous education initiatives.” said Bond University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Pathways and Partnerships, Catherine O’Sullivan who organises the annual trip.

Leann Wilson, who is Bond University’s inaugural Indigenous Fellow, said the combination of genders and leaders made for a powerful impact, “This broader mix of men and women, businesspeople and educators generated a noticeable change in the group dynamics, potential opportunities and communication with the community. “It was exciting to see how the focus expanded from a purely educational viewpoint to one that incorporated the entrepreneurship, business acumen and legal skills of our broader-based group.

“In the discussions within our Yarning Circles, it was inspiring to hear them identifying opportunities that could significantly benefit the people of Lockhart – in terms of support for small businesses and the potential for establishing new enterprises – all based on what the community told us that they need.

“My key message to the group was that communities like Lockhart need us to listen to what THEY need, what THEY think will work and what THEY hope to achieve … and to support and walk beside them on the journey.

“The other significant learning for me was that you can’t manage from afar. We have some incredible leaders on the national Indigenous stage, but we need to foster and develop leaders who are on the ground, in community, with the passion to inspire those around them.

“Those leaders in Lockhart River have now made some influential connections with Bond’s Yarning Up entrepreneurs and educators who can help them make it happen.”

The 2016 delegation included:

  • Founder and Managing Director of Blue Sky Alternative Investments, Mark Sowerby;
  • Chairman of Partners at McCullough Robertson, Dominic McGann;
  • Executive General Manager of Specialised Services for ISS Facility Services Australia and New Zealand, Andrew Weaver;
  • Sydney-based barrister and philanthropist, Fiona Sinclair;
  • Indigenous art expert, Adam Knight;
  • Principal of Emmanuel College, Patrick Innes-Hill;
  • Executive Director of Worawa Aboriginal College, Lois Peeler;
  • Executive Director of the Anglican Schools Commission, Sherril Molloy.

Below: Leann Wilson and Catherine O'Sullivan visiting children at Lockhart River State School and Art Gallery. Image right features artist Elizabeth ‘Queenie’ Giblet.