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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

MaraWay Changing Lives

A bold new approach to changing lives, and the Cairns community has a no-frills approach, but everyone is welcome and empowered to gain control of their lives and start fresh.

The MaraWay is an Indigenous-led not-for-profit organisation in Cairns, fearlessly tackling the tough issues in the community. It’s judgement free, and unconditional respect is shown, but the arrangement must be mutual. It may be viewed as tough love, but they are firm in their stance that for a community to thrive, resources must not be wasted, and people must take all the possible steps to help themselves.

The primary thought that led to MaraWay’s inception was by the all-Indigenous founders asking, “What if we weren’t restricted by government funding?”

They realised they were tying up 30 per cent of their resources, looking for funding, applying for funding and reporting to funding bodies. That’s when they had the light bulb moment and asked themselves, “What if we redirected that 30 per cent of the time to creating sustainable income streams and improving our services and outcomes?”.

No longer spending time seeking funding and no longer having to work in the confined criteria of the often time-limited funding buckets, they were free to create and evolve their services based on the needs and demands of the local community. As a result, they are making a longer-lasting impact.

The Board is made up of five adept directors who meet regularly to manage the direction of the organisation, oversee financial performance, manage risk, and provide advice to the team while also keeping them accountable. Maria Pedersen (Chair), Rhonda Brim, and Ian Cannon are Djabugay people. Lorraine Maund and Victor Maund are Mamu people. The Directors are united that regardless of cultural background, they are all one community and have dedicated their leadership and The MaraWay to supporting anyone in any kind of need.

There is a deep meaning behind the name: MaraWay. Mara means ‘hands’ in the Djabugay language, which sums up their pragmatic, down-to-earth approach. The MaraWay is all about shaping the future of the local community by bringing many hands together across the various parts of our shared community to tackle tough issues. 

In 2017 The MaraWay board appointed Andrea Jackson as CEO. Well-known for her visionary, energetic and determined approach, The MaraWay has since harnessed her leadership skills and business acumen to drive their unique, new approach.

“We have two eligibility criteria for services we offer to individuals in our community. The first is to be human, and the second is that we expect people to take steps within their capabilities to help themselves. When you’re ready to show us that you’re taking the initial steps, we can help you where you need it.

It’s about building capabilities for people to help themselves, which is required for anyone to make a change in life – Andrea

The team at The MaraWay know that one person rarely has a single issue, life is more complex than that, and they know one size does not fit all.

“Funding usually requires you to help people in a certain way, and people certainly need to be prepared to create that change. We need to be tailoring the way we support each individual. Then we take it, step by step, and build in support for positive changes for as long as or as little as they need,” Andrea shared.

As part of their unique approach to helping others, The MaraWay Training works successfully with CQUniversity, which means students are enrolled with CQUniversity and complete their training and assessment at The MaraWay, where support for training and in life is tailored to optimise students’ success in completing their qualification and finding employment. 

If people fall off the bandwagon or face new difficulties, they often come back when they are prepared to accept help again and often know the strategies to continue moving forward. Sometimes all people need is someone willing to listen and to remind them of the strategies and strengths they already have to get them back on track, proving The MaraWay’s impact is profound,” Andrea said. 

Andrea is keenly aware they don’t have all the answers and knows engaging with the community brings people together from diverse backgrounds and helps to bring new ideas to the surface. Local businesses have made donations, not only financially but with precious resources like their own time and expertise.

The MaraWay CEO Andrea Jackson

“It might be they bring their team members in once a month and cook up meals for our food freezer, but at the same time, they engage with our clients and are really hands-on seeing what we do. They contribute ideas to projects we might be working on or an issue we are trying to figure out. 

Loneliness is a tough and growing issue in the community, and the team at The MaraWay take the time to sit and listen to those seeking connection. Whether that be with people who have lost their permanent home or a family in need, they are connected to the right services. 

 The biggest question the Board has asked is, “What is the one lasting impact or project that we can have?”. 

That led to The MaraWay developing the vision to help other not-for-profits in Australia transition to a sustainable, self-funding model, enabling them to focus on creating long-term, intergenerational change. The transition for organisations in the not-for-profit sector (NFP) sector will require tailored investment and support in building commercial capabilities in the NFP sector. 

Andrea shares that working with a board that asks those kinds of deep questions, which are strategic and has such a bold vision for the future of our community, is exciting for the organisation and the community at large.

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