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Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group

The Australian Government appointed a Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group in December 2017 to provide support and advice to the Ministerial Forum on Northern Development.

The group provides input on Indigenous perspectives so that the agenda to develop a stronger northern Australia benefits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the north.


17 April 2018, Kununurra, Western Australia

10 December 2017, Darwin, Northern Territory

1 September 2017, Darwin, Northern Territory


Indigenous Reference Group members do not represent specific organisations or communities, but have been selected for their high-level of expertise and experience across a range of industries, sectors and regions.

The members of the groups are:

Peter Yu, Western Australia

Mr Yu is a Yawuru Man from Broome and is a board member of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance. He is also CEO of the Nyamba Buru Yawuru Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate.

Lawford Benning, Western Australia

Mr Benning is from Kununurra and is chair of MG Corporation which represents the interests of Miriuwung and Gajerrong native title holders. He is also CEO of the Gelganyem Trust for the traditional owners of the Argyle Participation Agreement and a board member of Binarri-binyja Yarrawoo Aboriginal Corporation (Empowered Communities, East Kimberley).

Joe Morrison, Northern Territory

Mr Morrison was born and raised in Katherine and has Dagoman and Torres Strait Islander heritage. He has been CEO of the Northern Land Council since 2014 and was the founding CEO of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance.

Donna Odegaard AM, Northern Territory

Dr Odegaard is a Larrakia elder and CEO of Aboriginal Broadcasting Australia, Australia’s largest 100 per cent Indigenous owned television, radio and production network. In 2016, she was awarded an Order of Australia for her contribution to protecting and preserving Indigenous cultural heritage, reconciliation and Indigenous broadcasting and media.

Nigel Browne, Northern Territory

Mr Browne, a Larrakia and Wulna man, is the CEO of the Darwin-based Larrakia Development Corporation, where he has served as chair and/or board member for over a decade. He has a Bachelor of Laws and his former roles include Crown Prosecutor in the NT’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, working on Aboriginal Lands for the Solicitor for the NT, and as a Policy Advisor in the NT Chief Minister’s Office. He has held board positions with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Law Society (NT) and Australia Day Council (NT), was National Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year in 2011 and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Colin Saltmere, Queensland

Associate Professor Saltmere is an Indjalandji-Dhidhanu man and an Associate Professor at the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre at the University of Queensland. He is managing director of the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu Aboriginal Corporation; and the Myuma and Rainbow Gateway companies.

Vonda Malone, Queensland

Councillor Malone created history in 2016 by becoming the first Indigenous female Mayor of the Torres Shire Council. She was awarded the prestigious McKinnon Prize for Emerging Political Leader of the Year in 2018. She is a change maker, was the first Torres Strait Islander woman to work internationally with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and with the UN Office of the Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva. She established the first community controlled primary health care service in the Torres Strait and is now its chair. Councillor Malone has a Graduate Certificate in Australian Rural Leadership and Public Sector Management. She was a recipient of the 2001 Centenary Medal.

Fiona Jose, Queensland

Ms Jose is a Kuku Yalanji and Torres Strait Islander woman and is Executive General Manager of Cape Operations, Cape York Partnership. She is a leader of the Cape York Partnerships Empowered Communities initiative, a board member of Bama Services and chair of the Jawun Advisory Group. She also holds a range of directorships including Non-Executive Director of Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, Djarragun College, and Cape York Girl Academy and is on the council of the National Museum of Australia. Ms Jose won the 2015 Telstra Business Women’s Award, Queensland and the Australian Institute of Management named her Queensland Not-for-profit Manager of the Year in 2012.