Annalise with my Thanikwithi family IMG_1045 c

Napranum: An Indigenous Community Celebrating Sustainable Change

Sometimes your work can lead you to the most inspiring places and people. For Dynamic Exchange director Annalise Jennings, the far north Queensland community of Napranum is one of those places, and Maryann Coconut is one of those people.

Annalise began working in Napranum in 2011, when the council engaged her to help establish a visionary plan by and for the people. Annalise is passionate about empowering communities like Napranum through her Whole of Community Change (WOCC) approach to planning.

“The Whole of Community Change approach empowers the community to enable economic opportunity, positive social change and spiritual growth,” she explains.

“One of the outcomes of WOCC is the creation of a community owned plan and vision, which the people of the community ultimately take responsibility for.”

This process struck a chord with Maryann – one of Napranum’s most celebrated Indigenous elders and a current council representative for the region. The two women began working closely on plans for Napranum’s future, and have helped bring about much of the positive change seen in the community over the past four years.

One of the most recent transformations has been the opening of their very own library – named in honour of Maryann.

The Mary Ann Coconut Library was officially opened on 28th October 2015, coinciding with NAIDOC celebrations. A huge crowd of supportive community members gathered for the opening ceremony, which included a touching tribute to Maryann.

Annalise had the privilege of speaking about Maryann and sharing how much she valued their work together – and the friendship that grew out of their collaboration.

“Maryann, you are a woman of grace, of presence…in fact, when Maryann walks into a room, she doesn’t need to speak to be heard. There are very few people on this earth that have that presence and alignment of the mind, body and soul,” Annalise said in a speech on the day.

“As the visionary plan for Napranum began to take shape, Maryanne became the person l could create and explore with during times of innovation, laugh with during times of joy and cry with through unexpected challenges.”

Annalise at the opening of the Mary Ann Coconut (nee Hall) Library.

It’s these kinds of experiences that drive Annalise to do what she does. It’s so much more than just a job for her – something she conveys beautifully in an interview with Black Star Radio about the event.

The way Annalise throws herself into this process wholeheartedly is one of the reasons that such valuable friendships are formed and grow with the communities she works with.

The outcomes of the work at Napranum are also a testament to the power of Annalise’s WOCC approach: to date, over 90% of the initiatives on the plan identified by the people of Naprnaum in 2011 have come to fruition. This includes:

  • 60% increase in employment
  • 80% decrease in adult domestic violence
  • Community owned housing and construction
  • New CIVIC centre and supermarket
  • Renovated community hall and sports oval
  • War Memorial and town signage
  • Established Day Care Centre and refurbished pre school
  • Restaurant and takeaway

“This is a result that l have never seen in all my years of delivering strategy programs – whether that be in corporate, community, government agencies or other related fields,” Annalise says.

Working in remote communities is often seen as a challenge, but Annalise’s experience, sensitivity and high level of care means she can work with individual communities to explore possibilities that are valuable to everyone.

Working with the Napranum council and community is so much more than a job for Annalise. It has influenced her whole life, and was a major inspiration for her TEDx Talk in 2014.

Annalise is passionate about empowering communities, and her involvement with Napranum is a testament to how effective her strategies are for economic, social and individual growth. And the strong friendships formed through this process show just how meaningful this work is for everyone involved.

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