Winyama and Goanna Education join hands with AWS to help build digital capability for First Nations’ workforce

Iain Rouse, Worldwide Public Sector Director for ANZ at AWS
Iain Rouse, Worldwide Public Sector Director for ANZ at AWS

Australia is home to over 2.1 million businesses, of which between 12,000 and 16,000 (0.5% to 0.7%) are Indigenous owned. A further 73,250 Indigenous Aussies are set to join the workforce by 2026 and 2,200 of those are expected to start their own businesses.

Australia is facing a shortage of Indigenous companies able to fulfil even a small section of work in the information technology (IT) market. The last census in 2021 revealed that there were only 1,402 Indigenous ICT workers in Australia. In recent years, there’s been a major push to grow the country’s First Nations business sector, and the results are promising.

Two Indigenous-owned and operated technology businesses are on a mission to create economic opportunities for First Nations people by creating a future pipeline of Indigenous Australian tech talent. In collaboration with Amazon Web Services, Winyama Digital Solutions and Goanna Education are helping improve the digital capabilities of the First Nations’ workforce so people can better care for Country and pursue new career paths in technology.

How are the companies improving digital capabilities?

Growing through collaborating with AWS

Winyama Digital Solutions, a West Australian First Nations-owned and operated IT firm, is upskilling and reskilling Indigenous Aussies so they can help shape the future of local tech. Proud Ngarluma Traditional Owner, Andrew Morumburri Dowding is Winyama’s founder. His vision is to have full and equal participation of Indigenous Aussies in the digital economy.

Andrew Morumburri Dowding, Co-founder and Managing Director at Winyama
Andrew Morumburri Dowding, Co-founder and Managing Director at Winyama

“Our ultimate goal is to enhance Indigenous presence in the technology sector as well as empowering Indigenous communities by equipping them with industry-relevant digital skills, enabling us to secure the knowledge of our ancestors and responsibly manage their legacy in a sustainable, Indigenous manner that prepares us all for the future,” commented Andrew.

Andrew has worked closely with Indigenous Ranger Groups and seen first-hand the need to build professional and technological skills within First Nation’s communities, and ensure they have access to digital tools. Winyama is a member of the AWS Partner Network (APN) and leverages AWS’ tech to build environments to store, process, and manage geospatial location data intelligence and digital solutions to collect, host, visualise, share, and publish maps.

This ultimately enables First Nations communities, businesses, and governments to make data driven decisions with the right contextual information, concerning sacred sites, natural land, and other things of cultural significance. Additionally, the consultancy also leverages the AWS Think Big for Small Business Program which offers small and/or minority-owned public sector organisations in Australia with access to business, technical, and marketing support.

Supporting First Nations’ participation in tech

Winyama has a goal to be the leading provider of location data and digital solutions across Australia’s commercial and public sectors. It is engaging First Nations people and their communities in the digital economy through the Indigenous Mapping Workshop Australia which offers Indigenous Australian ranger training programs for improving land management.

This training initiative is designed for Indigenous Australians, Indigenous Ranger Groups, Language Centres, and Native Titles Corporations. It equips Indigenous-led firms with the skills so that First Nations peoples are proficient in the use of geospatial software tools, Earth Observation (EO) technology, and other data management tools used for capturing data.

Participants in this initiative come away with unparalleled skills to map significant cultural sites, bushfire mitigation, the protection of threatened species, and biosecurity compliance. Meanwhile, Winyama’s internship program is an incubator for young Indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander tech talent, especially those who want to learn geospatial skills.

With the support of a mentor, it offers Geographic Information Systems (GIS) training for future analysts and access to AWS Certifications for IT consultant graduates. Three Winyama interns have gone on to become graduate IT consultants and graduate GIS analysts.

Since launching in 2019, Winyama has trained over 1,500 First Nation’s people in vital skills such as data collection as well as technology software. This year alone, the Indigenous Mapping Workshop Australia initiative has supported 77 firms including title organisations, cultural centres, language centres, heritage groups, natural resource management firms.

Jaden Dzubiel, Graduate IT Consultant at Winyama and Indigenous Mapping Workshop trainer commented, “One of the things we do in the workshop is to overlay a historical map over satellite imagery, using attendees knowledge of country to rediscover and rescue old cultural names. It’s rewarding to make such a significant impact on the efforts to preserve culture.”

He’s also mentoring students from Year 7 to 12 to help achieve their highest academic capabilities with the aim to increase the number of Indigenous Australians in the STEM field. 

Learning and earning on Country through AWS re/Start

Goanna Education is Australia’s only Indigenous-owned and led Registered Training firm specialising in IT skills. Established in 2018 by Corey Brown, a Gamilaraay and Dunghutti man from Northern New South Wales, it helps Australians from all walks of life participate in, and benefit from the digital economy including First Nations people, communities, and businesses.

It is working to close the digital skills gap by getting more young Indigenous Australian people into work and supporting people who are returning to the workplace after a career break. It’s also providing Indigenous Aussies with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education as well as training, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Goanna Education collaborated with Amazon Web Services to launch the first AWS re/Start in Australia in 2020. The entry-level, free workforce development program equips unemployed and underemployed individuals with the necessary skills to pursue technology careers. For over 12-weeks, participants are taught practical cloud skills via both in-person and video-conference style e-learning, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services instructors.

Goanna Education has supported 15 cohorts graduate from the program and connect them with interview or employment opportunities. Through AWS re/Start, Goanna Education is helping address the national shortage of tech talent aligned with the Australian Government’s objective of creating 1.2 million jobs in technology by 2030 by employing 600,000 people.

Commenting on the initiative, Melanie Redding, Chief Operating Officer at Goanna Education, said, “We are proud to enable all Australians, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities, to learn and earn on Country. The technology sector provides a significant opportunity for Indigenous Australians as it predominantly offers remote work, therefore enabling the capacity to learn and earn on Country through programs such as AWS re/Start.”

Goanna Education’s collaboration with AWS has helped the business further its reach to remote communities to equip First Nation’s peoples with digital skills. For example, via other nationally recognised training programs that offer up to six-month virtual training courses to people who have taken a career break or minority groups that want to enter the workforce.

As part of the AWS re/Start program, Goanna Education is also working with the Department of Education and Sydney-based Indigenous Australian learning hub, Kimberwalli, to deliver foundational cloud-skills. Many of the First Nations learners that Goanna trains have faced a number of barriers to digital inclusion, including access to equipment and financial support.

A thriving future in tech for First Nations communities

Digital skills yield economic benefits for communities and economies. Research by Gallup and AWS shows advanced digital skills like cloud architecture, AI, and software development raise Australia’s annual GDP by $41bn by boosting the income and productivity of workers.

“It’s an honour for us to work alongside Winyama and Goanna Education to address the digital divides and strengthen technological capabilities within First Nations communities across Australia,” says Iain Rouse, Worldwide Public Sector Director for ANZ at AWS.

“At AWS, we understand the significance of reconciliation with First Nations individuals and we value the meaningful actions aimed at bettering the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We are enthusiastic about collaborating with them to preserve the heritage of First Nations, and support their digital transformation journeys,” Iain Rouse further added.