Martu have seen their world turn upside down. In the space of two generations the Martu people have gone from living a traditional way of life in the desert to living in modern Australia while trying to hold on to their traditions. To create a positive future in modern Australia, Martu need to understand and experience how mainstream Australia works, how it affects their communities and lives, and how to engage and partner with mainstream institutions to shape a new future for Martu.

The Martu Leadership Program (MLP) is a focused community education and development program, designed to build broad-based capacity and create opportunities in remote Western Desert Aboriginal communities. It seeks to fill a gap that was seen as precluding Martu people from developing a viable economy, from engaging effectively with government and many programs, from adequately addressing entrenched social issues and from being able to take control of their future.

The MLP has demonstrated in its first three years as a pilot program that it can meet the needs of both Martu and the mainstream – government and other stakeholders with an interest in supporting economic development and empowerment in Martu communities. It is a model for building strong governance and developing broad capacity that Martu have embraced and co-designed, that they understand, that makes sense within their own perspective, culture and history, and that can also deliver on outcomes framed by Western society (in this report, characterised in Martu terms as ‘whitefellas’).

The Martu Leadership program is a joint initiative with KJ’s partner World Vision Australia with additional financial support being provided by BHP Billiton, WA State Government’s Royalties for Regions program and the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) Culture and Capability stream.

Click here to read Evaluation of a Martu Leadership pilot program using the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology

Hear personal stories from the Martu Leadership participants by clicking Stories of Change