Josephine Cashman

Josephine Cashman

Let me introduce you to Josephine Cashman.

Josie’s life has taken her on an incredible journey, from leaving home at the age of 14 to an amazing story that sees her co-creating societies based on mutual respect and social reinvestment.

Gain some insight into what has compelled Josie to pull together human beings from all walks of life from right around the globe to co-create a vision of an equal life for Aboriginal people through economic development, Aboriginal people having control over our own land and assets, and through the face of adversity harnessing all her strength to positively impact social change.

This Aboriginal woman is a true leader and innovator and I thank the Universe for allowing me the opportunity to know her.

Interview with Josephine Cashman on Wednesday 13 November 2013

Josephine and her ‘Mother’ Margaret Brown

Josephine and her ‘Mother’ Margaret Brown

I belong to the Worimi and Aranda peoples, the Marika and Yunupingu clan through my family at Galupa in Eastern Arnhem Land, and I am connected to the south coast of NSW and Victorian region through my connection to the Harrison and Brown families.

I have an older sister Genevieve who works at the Melbourne Museum as the Senior Curator of Bunjilaka which presents the Aboriginal Creation stories, a rich history of around 2,000 generations of Aboriginal life in Victoria, and the shared journey of the past 200 years. Genevieve directed a movie on the biggest case I had when I was a prosecutor, a documentary called ‘Lani’s Story’ and also worked on the award winning First Australians SBS series.

I have two brothers who belong to the Worimi, Aranda and Gurindji peoples, Kieran Satour who works at Koori Radio at the Gadigal Information Service Aboriginal Corporation and Yagan Satour.

Yagan has a mild intellectual disability and my sister Genevieve and I played a big part in his upbringing. He really misses my sister who is currently overseas and he is a key member of my family, I describe him as my rock and he is such an amazing human being, his loyalty to me has always been unwavering. There is nine years difference between myself and Kieran and thirteen years with Yagan.

My step-brother Steven Satour lives in Alice Springs and my step-sister Michelle Satour in Tennant Creek. Steven and Michelle belong to the Aranda peoples from the central desert region near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and Pitjantjatjara peoples on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and the Gurindji peoples from the Northern Territory’s Victoria River region.

Elaine Pelot-Syron, Gayili Marika-Yunupingu and Margaret Brown are very special women in my life who I consider my ‘Mothers’. I was blessed by the land from my experience with the Yolgnu people and given my traditional name ‘Bonba’ by my traditional ‘Father’ Banduwa Marika (Roy Marika’s eldest son) and my ‘Mother’ Gayili Marika-Yunupingu, meaning ‘Butterfly’.

Until the age of 9 the Donovan family from Nambucca Heads played a pivotal role in my life and Uncle Hilton Donovan was like a father to me.

My son, Joseph, is connected to communities’ right through from La Perouse down to Lake Tyres and from 1995 I spent a lot of time on the south coast where I was blessed by the love, connection and support of the Harrisons and Browns who became my family and I live with the Wallaga Lake Aboriginal community throughout some of this time.

It was 1980 when Uncle Cookie became the first Indigenous General Secretary of the Tranby Aboriginal Co-Operative College.

The co-operative principles of communal ownership and self-management, and the philosophy of shared working and learning environments, brought people together from all ends of the country and were fundamental to the organisation success at this time. I remember Uncle Cookie being instrumental to this success. I hold fast to the principles of Tranby.

I gained a lot of inspiration from many people who were passionate at that time around the inner city area in Sydney, it was a really cool time to be young and going to all the different protests was a real buzz.

In 1987 we moved to Perth in Western Australia, and then moved again and stayed a little while, a few weeks in Alice Springs central Australia, before moving on to Bathurst, New South Wales. It was around this time when I first met inspirational Wakka Wakka woman Lindy Moffatt of the Healing Foundation in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Lindy used to babysit us and she was to play a pivotal role later in my life when she helped me get into University through the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology in Sydney.

From Bathurst we moved on to Canberra where after leaving home at the age of 14.

I stayed in Canberra with a lady by the name of Diana Shapovalova, who took me in and I have never had the opportunity to thank her for being a lynchpin in my life. Met Al Grassby through Diana. Mr Albert Jaime Grassby AM was the Minister for Immigration in the Whitlam Labor government and often referred to as the father of Australian ‘multiculturalism’.

Through this meeting I had the opportunity to do work experience with Cheryl Kernot for two weeks. Cheryl was a politician, academic, and political activist. She was a member of the Australian Senate representing Queensland for the Australian Democrats from 1990 to 1997 and she was the head at the time – I was in awe of Parliament House and it was a really exciting time to be there when I was young. Mixing with different people at that age really opened my eyes to the Governments role in our society.

I then moved to Sydney and worked at Metro Television, with a lady by the name of Zara Williams, who I have known since before I was born, she gave me a job and taught me to work really hard, to be confident, and the importance of having a core job when you are young. So I went to Tranby College myself to embark on further studies.

It was after that when I moved down the coast between Sydney and Melbourne to Wallaga Lake with my son Joseph’s family. I was young and they took me in and looked after me. I had a great time living down the south coast and I really value being around such a strong cultural family.

I was always in awe of Professor Larissa Behrendt, she was a young, intelligent and glamorous Professor of Law and very approachable and saw her as a role model. From there I moved back to Sydney and Lindy encouraged me to attend University and also introduced me to her sister Tracey Moffatt who is also an absolute inspiration.

I carried out the first year and a half of my Law and Communication (Journalism) Degree living in a women’s refuge. There were many powerful women who have helped me throughout my life and helped me with my son. I met a lovely Lebanese woman; she had 4 children under 5! Through our friendship I learned so much about her culture and she helped me a lot along the way. We are still extremely close today and I am blessed to know her, she is my sister.

Whist at University I worked at AMP in Corporate HR in my breaks. I then moved to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in NSW and I started instructing in trials during the second year of my Law degree. The DPP gave me that responsibility which was fantastic and I loved it. The DPP was one of the greatest places I have ever worked. I had some amazing cases and it felt really good because you were really making decisions for the community, whether to prosecute or not, or to gather evidence. Through that time I got to understand how the Police really work. I used to be fearful of the police before that and now I realise there are a lot of Police Officers who really care and are doing such a hard job.

It is not as scary as people think, but Aboriginal people are very disenfranchised within the system so it was important, especially with some of the Aboriginal victims I had, that I was there and able to guide them through the process, make them players in the democracy and to be truthful in their giving of evidence. Fear can be all encompassing and when you are in the grips of fear it is very hard to give your story the justice it deserves.

I really felt like I was making a difference, especially with my role in Lani’s Story. When the book was published this year by Harper Collins, Lani Brennan contacted me and said there was no money available for the book launch. I sent a copy of the book to the Prime Minister’s office and within a week Mr Abbott agreed to launch the book. I feel that Mr Abbott is going to be a really important Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and for the healing of the Australian people.

What motivates me is bringing people together and creating a team where everyone feels respected in working towards a common social goal. I love working in business, when you are in a business situation and running your own company, you can actually create a family. What I want from my business is people who feel like their work is purposeful and they are creating positive change in the world.

I realised after I went to America a year ago, that many of the restrictions in our lives are created in our own minds and by bureaucracy. It is really exciting when you open yourself up completely and you look at your talents and understand the boundaries around what you are good at and what you are not good at, you really can create change.

My core motivation to go to university was actually my son Joseph. He is just the most amazing person I know. I am blessed to have a fantastic relationship with him and he impresses me all the time. When I had him at 19, I don’t think I was at a stage in my life where I cared enough about myself to do anything substantial. He really is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I am really proud of Joseph because he finished the Riverview Kokoda Track Immersion this year and this December he is going to China for 3 weeks with a family from the school he attends, Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview. He aspires to be an investment banker and does really well in school and he was elected as a house captain for the Junior School Division.

I attribute much of my success to the support Riverview College has given me and Joseph, particularly from Joseph’s mentor Damien Woods. Damien has visited and supported him every single fortnight for the past 4 years.

Something else that really motivates me is the feeling that it is time for change and that this is a spiritual thing too. There are some simple things in life that we need to have in place so that we all feel safe, culturally safe and respected. We can’t allow jealousy, tall poppy syndrome or bullying to remain in our families, communities and places of work. Mutual respect allows the true beauty of the world to shine through.

I believe one of the biggest barriers for Aboriginal people is confidence, or more so a lack of confidence that plagues Aboriginal people. I believe the solutions can be found through economic development, having control over our own land and assets and by using them positively to create social change thorough our own Aboriginal Terms of Reference and our own auditable commercial vehicles. By doing this Aboriginal people can improve our owns lives and become the first class citizens that we rightfully are on our own land thus more equally contributing to Australian society and becoming important and valuable players in our democracy rather than observers on the fringe.

True leadership is something we should all strive towards and I believe some of the key factors in being a true leader for the future include humbleness, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and having the ability to galvanise other peoples skills and talents to create something tangible, to build momentum and support visions, especially the visions of our elders. It is very important that Elders guide, support and work with us on every aspect of our journey.

You also need to be very strong and be able to quickly identify if someone is insincere or wasting your time, you need to have strong boundaries with people and it is important to manage those boundaries in a respectful way.

I always seek counsel where I need to, keep my emotions in check and do not allow people to walk all over me. You can never perfect the art although you can always improve, on having those clear boundaries with people and I really feel I am getting there, it is an ongoing process.

If I had 10 Million Dollars to benefit Aboriginal people I would invest it in an impact fund, a fund that has a social return and an economic yield, because I think it is important to not give money away but create employment opportunities. An impact fund creates the opportunity to invest in Aboriginal businesses and support growth, for instance, assisting an Aboriginal community with a commercial opportunity and allowing the community to bring it to life.

This week I got really emotional firstly watching Aunty Matilda House’s welcome to country for Parliament and secondly hearing the Prime Minister Tony Abbott talk about the fact that he really would like to see one day, an Aboriginal Prime Minister, an Aboriginal person take the lead and there were genuine tears in his eyes.

I want to say I am not at the moment interested in becoming the Prime Minister at all, I love business, but if I had the opportunity hypothetically there are a few things I would focus on.

The Prime Ministers position is not paid very much in the scheme of things really, the wage would be a mid-level corporate manager/executive amount and because of this I believe most people in politics are not necessarily motivated by money. I believe our Prime Minister primarily wants to create history by bringing Aboriginal people to where they rightfully should be. Mr Abbott is doing things in such a way, that what we do next will contribute to the whole of society and bring about healing for all Australians.

I would try to influence the Parliament to have more conversations based on mutual respect, I mean, I know it is an adversarial system but I think while we are attacking people reality becomes jaded.

One thing I think our Mob could do better is to not take what you see on TV or read in mainstream media or hear on the grapevine to be an exclusive indication of what a person is like in real life.

Mr Abbott strikes me to be a very caring person whose got a social agenda but he is also really into cutting red tape and for everybody to be treated the same. So I think I would at probably do what he is doing.

I would put Aboriginal Affairs under the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

I would become a Prime Minister for Infrastructure which he is orchestrating and fulfilling his promises.

I would cut red tape for Aboriginal people to create commercial ventures on their own land because we should be able to do what we want with our own assets. Like with my client NANA Regional Corporation, turning over 2 billion in revenue in 2012. This would have not occurred without the courage of the then Republican Government.

The government originally seeded a number of regional corporation in Alaska with a share of half a million dollars. The thirteen (13) Regional Development Corporations as of 2012 turned over 9 billion dollars in combined revenue, contributing to the economic and social welfare of its native shareholders. They have a legislative mandate to ensure native shareholders directly benefit from the success of these commercial vehicles.

I would create extreme general deterrents for people who are trying to take advantage of the system. I would insert an instrument within the Commonwealth Criminal Code for people who abuse any Indigenous Opportunity Policy (IOP) to feel the full swift of the law of the land that applies to every Australian. In my view this includes people who ‘White Label’ aboriginal and islander companies that are not doing the hard yards to improve employment outcomes, this is clearly a fraud and to the detriment of Aboriginal families and communities.

Prime Minister Abbott is actually a Rhodes Scholar; he has obviously thought deeply about this and is absolutely on the right track, I am very positive about the changes that are being made. I think Mr Abbott is making exactly the type of timely and historic change that I would like to see happen in my lifetime and for the benefit of my children and my grandchildren.

I believe cultural safety is an important aspect to the success of our peoples’ global vision. Whatever our individual cultures are, or beliefs, or practices, they need to be respected, if they are not respected people tend to spend all their time protecting themselves and can’t actually innovate.

The critical underpinning for mutually beneficial relationships between all Australians is respect, and it is a principle of the culture too, the Aboriginal Culture. Respect, respect peoples position, respect their background, respect their station in life, and respect the roles they play in their families, and in their communities and in their workplaces. And respect and allow difference, just allow it.

I think the lack of respect comes from people not actually being comfortable in their own skin, that undermining and lateral violence, the perception that we all have to be the same. Diversity creates innovation and business studies have shown that, it is something that should be embraced. We can’t all be the same and difference and diversity is the beauty of life and of human beings.

When Uncle Brian Butler and Nicola Butler invited me to be a ‘Lateral Love Ambassador’ it was such an honour. It is very important to me and the principles are what I try to implement within my own company. Brian and Nicola are part of my central Australian family who I belong to. I always refer to my company as my family. Lateral Love is very important for commercial advantage, when people feel labelled and put down they do not perform well but Lateral Love is an important principle for the world and I just feel honoured that I was even asked.

I can’t believe how many followers Lateral Love has around the world and it is just extraordinary how quickly it has grown, over 20 million viewers in 159 countries since January 2012, it is phenomenal but really this is because hearts are in the right place and the time is right.

When I think about the rising statistics regarding Aboriginal suicide I absolutely believe there is a direct link between suicide and lateral violence. I feel that people who want to suicide have completely given up hope and it is directly connected to lateral violence, there are no two ways about it and all Australians need to understand the impacts of trans-generational and inter-generational trauma for the healing to being.

Lateral love and the principles it embraces; caring, sharing, nurturing, love and respect; are critical for humanity to survive.

We need to empower our people, support them, provide opportunity, create hope, jobs, economic development, and a reason to want to go ahead. We are victors and the end result of feeling suicidal is because individuals feel there is no hope, we need to insert hope to enable our children and grandchildren to lead fulfilling, meaningful lives.

Riverview Global Partners (Riverview) exists because of the support I received from my mentors. My inspiration was ignited by NANA Regional Development Corporations Clyde Gooden (Vice President and Iñupiat Shareholder of NANA) who believed in me and introduced me to Dave Marquez (Chief Operating Officer of NANA). Dave encouraged me to go forward, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for him, he saw that I had ability and made me feel like I could do anything. Stan Fleming (Senior Vice President of NANA) also encouraged me and continues to mentor me through this amazing journey. I see him every month and he is such a wise and calming influence on me and an integral member of my team and family.

NANA’s mission states: ‘We improve the quality of life for our people by maximizing economic growth, protecting and enhancing our lands, and promoting healthy communities with decisions, actions, and behaviours inspired by our Iñupiat Ilitqusiat values consistent with our core principles.’

Clyde, Dave and Stan encouraged me to go forward and together we are creating an amazing international impact fund that is going to be based on cultural values to ignite businesses that will be created in a culturally appropriate way embedded in our Aboriginal and Islander (including the Torres Strait) values consistent with our core principles.

For 10 years I have been supporting The Syron’s Keeping Place (The Keeping Place) and my company along with Aboriginal business owner Shane Jacobs of Pacific Services Group (PSG) we are now housing the collection.

We are creating an amazing space in Sydney; we have saved ‘The Keeping Place’.

All these wonderful talented people have come together, a family from all walks of life and all nationalities. Everyone is extremely motivated and loyal to each other, experts in their fields and we have just created this buzz that is going to be really big, it is extremely exciting.

Mr Philip Ruddock who is a member of the House of Representatives representing the Division of Berowra, New South Wales, for the Liberal Party of Australia, the Chief Whip of the Commonwealth Government and head of the Keeping Place has given me so much support to save the, along with Mr Daryl Maguire, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Member for Wagga Wagga, Government Whip Member of the Liberal Party and lead Patron of ‘The Keeping Place’.

They are both extremely valuable mentors to me. I am grateful that they took the time to encourage me. They gave me the hope that anything is possibly, and this is also another aspect that going to America really helped me with, to see how the native Eskimos have taken the ball and put it firmly back in their own court.

Through the face of adversity I have developed greater strength. I am looking forward to meeting with many new people and communities over the coming months with Uncle Brian Butler, to get out and have a yarn with people about what we are doing.

All the Elders and my mob who I have spoken to are also really excited, so that gives me hope. In my company my philosophy is ‘the dreams of our elders executed through the art of young people’ and that healing, art and culture have to go hand in hand with economic development to create an impact and eliminate the gap.

And that is exactly what we are doing, in everything you do in life it needs to be all cards in, walk the talk and it must have a social impact. With our colleagues it has to be like a journey, working together is a journey where we all feel valued and respected within this family.

I would really like to thank both Martyn Dominy my business partner and like a brother with his strong and unwavering support and care and Susie Salmon from Crowe Howarth, as a partner and an inspirational young, intelligent and motivated female business leader with a deep connection, respect and understanding of Aboriginal Australia. If it was not for both of these wonderful human beings I would never have been able to advance to the stage I have.

More recently Professor Margo Neale the senior Aboriginal curator of the National Museum in Canberra who has been a supporter of the keeping place for over 20 years has provided me with extreme care and guidance. I want to thank her for her determination and cultural values. It is amazing we have come together, not only do we share a connection to Victoria but also to Arnhem Land working and belonging to the Maningrida Mob with her husband Bruce Neale who were teachers there in the 1970’s. She has been a vital element to the ongoing support of the Syron’s.

There have been many role models and people who have inspirations me throughout my life, some continue to walk with me every step of the way, some walk with me in spirit, they include (in alphabetical order):

Alice Beilby, Allan Clarke, Aunty Calita Murray, Aunty Carol Simons, Aunty Celina and Michelle Blakeney, Aunty Lyn Reilly, Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Governor, Aunty Yvonne and Uncle Richard (Dick) Phillips (dec), Banduwa Marika (my ‘Father’), Beverly Johnson (dec), Brett Fordham (my cousin in Katherine), Chris Fry, Clyde Gooden, Damien Woods, Darren Hallaron, Dave Marquez, Dean Hawking, Dr Jeff McMullen, Elaine Pelot-Syron (my ‘Mother’), Gayili Marika –Yunupingu (my ‘Mother’), Isabel, Lewis and Zara Williams, Janice Stewart, Joseph Cashman (my Son), Julie Stark, Karen and Timmy Ella, Kathy and Lani Brennan, Ken Canning, Kooncha, Celina and Dolly Brown, Lindy and Tracey Moffatt, Little Gee, Lorna Carriage (dec), Lyn Trail, Margaret West, Martyn and Gabby Dominy, Mel Tyas, Michael Walsh and Phillip Hand from USB Investment Bank, Mr Daryl Maguire, Mr Phillip Ruddock, Mr Tony Abbott, My dear grandmother on my maternal side who was an amazing woman – I miss her and was named after her, My paternal grandparents who were active members of the Hornsby community and Liberal Party (both dec) I have fond memories of them both, Nannie Aggie Harrison (dec), Professor Larissa Behrendt, Ray Morrison, Rev. Dr Gondarra, Rhea Stephenson, Robert Joe Brown (dec), Shane Jacobs, Sharon Munungurr, Stan Fleming, Susie Salmon, The Mosley Family (my relations from Kempsy), The Page Family (from Queensland), Uncle Brian Butler and Nicola Butler, Uncle Chika Dixon (dec), Uncle Gordon Syron, Uncle Mick Murray, Uncle Norm Newland, Uncle Warren Mundine, Victor, Phillip and Ronald McLeod, Yagan Satour (my Brother) and many, many more.

I love you and thank you all for your continued love, encouragement and support.

“I am grateful for the pain, it made me who I am” ~ Josephine Cashman