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Empowering through connectivity and JTLeadLikeAGirl

4-minute read

Che Cockatoo-Collins chats with Johnathan Thurston about nbn’s partnership with the JT Academy to help deliver its JTLeadLikeAGirl program.

Today marks National Close the Gap Day, a day to revisit and recap nbn’s progress against the 17 targets under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

At nbn, our work focuses on Target 17, which aims to address gaps in digital inclusion among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 2026.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve engaged with more than 55 remote Indigenous communities on country, enabled telehealth consultations for remote communities, such as Laynhapuy Homelands and Gawa on the Elcho Islands, supported online education in partnership with the JT Academy in communities of Yarrabah, Thursday Island, Kowanyama and Doomadgee, and conducted digital audits with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Australia Council for the Arts supported art centres to bridge connectivity and capability gaps.

Yet, there is still much to do.

Our role at nbn extends beyond enabling connectivity – we also have an important role to play in driving digital capability through partnerships that contribute to the success of community-led programs.

We can think about digital inclusion in terms of access, affordability and capability. Our role at nbn extends beyond enabling connectivity – we also have an important role to play in driving digital capability through partnerships that contribute to the success of community-led programs.

Like our newly formalised partnership with the Johnathan Thurston Academy to help deliver its JTLeadLikeAGirl program.

Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Johnathan Thurston, head of the JT Academy, to talk about the program.

In particular, how it will help young women across Australia – including in at least 54 remote Indigenous communities using community-based Wi-Fi and the nbn™ Sky Muster™ satellite service – to connect through its online platform. 

Che Cockatoo-Collins: JT, tell us about ‘JTLeadLikeAGirl’ and what the JT Academy is aiming to achieve with it…

Johnathan Thurston: As a community, we strive to inspire young women to be confident, bold and goal-oriented but – most importantly – to be kind and shine a positive light on each other.

Our flagship program, JTLeadLikeAGirl, is targeted towards young women and aims to empower those young women with confidence, courage and self-belief to reach their full potential.

The dedicated JTLeadLikeAGirl online platform is a space where young women from all over Australia can meet and build meaningful connections with other incredible women, and become confident leaders of their own lives.

The community offers a chance for young women to connect and empower each other, showing them how powerful their voices are and that they can use it to achieve their goals. 

Che: How important is broadband connectivity to the JT Academy?

JT: For me, being away from home and having a very busy schedule, my connectivity is critical. Talking to my family via video, morning and night when I am away, and talking to our JT Academy participants online, is all made possible with good connectivity.

But, having connectivity is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘must have’. With a strong focus on connecting young Indigenous women within remote communities, it is our dream and vision to connect young women in an environment where they feel seen, heard and valued.

Our platform is a place where they can cultivate meaningful connections and derive strength and support with each other. We aim to inspire young women by showing them how powerful their voices are and how they can use it to achieve their goals.

We will work with nbn to expand the connectivity across various locations to enable participation of the program. 

Che: How is ‘JTLeadLikeAGirl’ already shaping lives in the communities it’s up and running?

Image supplied by the JT Academy
JT: This moment (pictured) in Doomadgee last year when we launched the program perfectly captures the impact I felt as I saw the absolute joy on the faces of the young women. It was also a moment I realised just how isolated our young women are, and how important it is to create that feeling of connection.

Che: nbn is partnering with the JT Academy for two years. How will this partnership progress your work, and how many students do you expect it to benefit?

JT: The JT Academy has ambitious plans to reach as many communities as possible across the country and empower young people with confidence, courage and self-belief.

Partnering with nbn will help us to reach young people in isolated communities, especially those who may not be able to access online services otherwise.

We are also working with schools, local councils and other key community stakeholders to engage students with our online platform.

We are hoping to reach more than 400 students this year by committing to weekly online sessions, and offering rewards for continued engagement.

Che: nbn is committed to helping deliver on Closing the Gap Target 17, that ‘people have access to information and services enabling participation in informed decision-making regarding their own lives’. What does that mean to you?

JT: It's important to me as I'm passionate about young people, and my culture lies at the very core of who I am. To collaborate with nbn on helping deliver on Target 17 is something I believe in – no matter where our young Indigenous people – or anyone for that matter – they should all have access to information and services that allow them to make informed decisions regarding their own lives.

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