JT visits Darwin for Aboriginal Economic Development Forum

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JTAcademy team with Managing Director Johnathan Thurston and the Hon Selena Uibo.

It was a lively discussion last week when our Managing Director, Johnathan Thurston AM, hosted a session at the 9th Aboriginal Economic Development Forum in Darwin.

Thurston spoke about the work the JT Academy is doing in helping Indigenous youth access education and employment opportunities.

“Through the Academy, we have been able to provide literally thousands of young Australians with education and employment they would not otherwise have enjoyed,” Thurston said to the forum.

“We have had a focus on regional areas and now excited to be expanding into the NT where we are already starting to build key partnerships to provide these opportunities to locals.”

Thurston’s attendance at the Forum was sponsored by the JTAcademy’s major employment partner Lendlease.

Other speakers at the event include Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, Aboriginal leader academic Professor Mick Dodson, Chair of Aboriginal Broadcasting Australia Dr Donna Odegaard and Northern Territory Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Education and Workplace Selena Uibo.

The forum, organised by the Northern Territory Government, was designed to encourage those working in Aboriginal businesses, services and programs to network with each other, share knowledge and showcase themselves.

The forum also aims to support discussion on Aboriginal economic development initiatives and strategies and attracts a diverse range of participants from Aboriginal entrepreneurs, private sector, industry, government and non-government organisations from across the Northern Territory.

“This forum was developed in response to the recognition that creating, retaining and growing Aboriginal jobs and businesses in the Northern Territory is important to the economy and wellbeing of local communities,” Thurston said.

“We have seen the value of partnerships in helping to reach those who have fallen through the cracks. We recognise that a large part of being employment-ready means having the confidence and self-belief that you can do it and that is often where we start.

“Through these partnerships and opportunities, we have seen lives change and want to keep doing that in the Northern Territory.”

Thurston has long been a passionate advocate and Ambassador for the Aboriginal community and in 2019 was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to rugby league and as a role model.


Listen to the interview with Johnathan and Mix 104.9 here.



Thanks Lendlease for joining us on this journey

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More than four years ago we commenced the planning and development of the Johnathan Thurston Academy with a clear vision of supporting young people to succeed in employment, education, health and wellbeing.

When having conversations with various corporates, it was always our goal to partner with companies and organisations who share the same values and are like-minded in caring for their people and their community.

At our very first meeting with Lendlease, we knew immediately that we were two like-minded organisations and shared values of respect, integrity, collaboration and trust. What we didn’t realise at that meeting was that Lendlease would soon become our Major Employment Partner – and more so treat us and look after us like family.

Lendlease is a property and construction company with global expertise in shaping cities and creating strong and connected communities. Chief Executive Officer for Lendlease Building, Dale Connor, recognised an opportunity to partner with the JTAcademy to help influence the training and employment outcomes for young jobseekers across Australia.

“When we met with Johnathan, Academy Director Sam Ayoub and General Manager Samantha Johnson, we immediately recognised a clear alignment of objectives,” Connor said of the partnership.

“Both the Academy and Lendlease are committed to supporting the local communities in which we operate whether it is through employment, training or engagement with small to medium enterprise.

“We shook hands on it at the time agreeing Lendlease would be there for the Academy and we have been true to our word. We are proud of the work we have done together and the opportunities it has created.”

JT said the Academy was very much a start-up when the first meeting with Lendlease took place.

“The support and trust from Lendlease meant the world to myself and my team. It is a partnership that will forever remain as our very first.  Lendlease backing us was a pivotal point in our journey.  Forever grateful.

“We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve, but we also recognised that to achieve it, we needed strategic corporate partners who could help us walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk,” Thurston said.

“Samantha literally drew a mud map of the partnership using stick figures at our first brainstorming meeting with Lendlease. We have kept those drawings because they remind us of our humble beginnings and what we set out to achieve – to make a meaningful and very real difference in the lives of young Australians. 

“We have achieved a lot in just a couple of years and we could not have done that without the support of Lendlease.”

JT said the partnership with Lendlease had opened several doors to additional employment partners which would not have been accessible otherwise and they have also facilitated introductions to organisations which have become sponsors, supporters and partners.

When Lendlease added a link to its website to the JTAcademy’s job board, visitor numbers to the site went through the roof opening doors for new generations of youth to access opportunities to learn and work.

“The solid foundation we have been able to build is thanks to the generosity and support of Lendlease, and means we are now looking to launch an ambitious new youth and diversity employment program at the end of 2019 – JT2020, which I know will be a game-changer for employment,” Thurston said.

“We are excited about what we have already achieved and even more excited about our plans for the future to help more youth in more communities.”


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