Community leader to build community skillset through new initiative

Cara Peek is one of those people you can’t help but admire. She boasts a resume that most would only be able to envy. As a lawyer, not-for-profit founder and an integral part of her community, her hard work over her lifetime is a sight to behold.

Peek lives in Broome and is a popular member of the community. So much so that she has been selected as a finalist of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award in 2020.

A Yawuru/Bunuba woman, Peek has lived all around the world before returning to her home to help develop her community.

Seeing what’s possible, she has made it her mission to give Indigenous people every opportunity to achieve success. Peek said she and her sister, Adele, co-founded the Cultural Intelligence Project (CIP) to create a better skillset for Indigenous people.

Peek said the CIP has a strong focus on ensuring that organisations and their programs are handled with cultural respect and integrity.

“We specialise in increasing the cultural intelligence of organisations and individuals, largely for the benefit of Aboriginal people and the outcomes that they are engaged with by non-Indigenous people,” Peek said.

The CIP has various modalities, allowing it to be as versatile as the people who are a part of the program, with face-to-face cultural and online training to soon be a feature of the program.

“[The] methodology can be used in training and employment, it can be used in event management and making sure there is a culturally appropriate response to events, with the engagement with the community, the way the event is run,” Peek said.

“Cultural intelligence is a thread through everything that we do.”

“[We have] Make it Happen HQ which is an Indigenous-led entrepreneur and innovation hub, with a think tank based in the Kimberley. We hope that Make it Happen HQ will provide not only an innovative space, but also an innovative learning and engagement space for organisations.”

Peek is eager to point out that the program can be run remotely allowing access to far reaching places in the country, and bringing with it the versatility that businesses need.

“The beauty of our business is that a lot of it can be done remotely,” she said.

“Our place based programs, like Make it Happen HQ will be located in Broome, and once we have solidified that … then we would seek expressions of interest from other communities on the potential to collaborate and deliver Make It Happen HQ in other locations.”

Peek is also the Chair of Saltwater Country, an organisation that had her nominated for the Rural Women’s Award. Saltwater Country aims to enable the Indigenous community socially, economically and emotionally.

“The reason I [was nominated] for the award is that we are proposing to develop Saltwater Academy, which sits under the Saltwater Country banner, which would overlap with the large-scale event we already run,” Peek said.

“It builds on the resilience of Aboriginal stockmen and stockwomen, the event we run is based on the sport of rodeo and camp drafting, and the soundtrack to that which is obviously country music.”

An offshoot of Saltwater Country, Saltwater Academy aims to upskill young people and help them to find employment in the industry.

“We have [an initiative] called Saltwater Stories, where we have carved out the creative aspects of our event.

“[For] any large scale even that needs media or marketing, photography or film … we have created a project with Goolarri Media, where young people can train either freeform or accredited … in film, photography, lighting and sculpture.”

Peek said upskilling is essential to community as a whole.

“One of the key things we are hoping to get out of the program … is to upskill the people enough so that they have choice, so if you want to be a bull rider for the rest of your life you can do that, but if you don’t want to do that … then you have opportunities in the creative space … it is all the skillset we need here locally.”

Peek’s work with Saltwater Country has resulted in her being awarded a Churchill Fellowship to take the Saltwater Country concept overseas and look at other types of social enterprises.

“I was recently awarded a Churchill Fellowship to take [the Saltwater Country] concept overseas, learn best practice, and look at those types of industries in the [United] States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico,” Peek said.

While Peek is excited about the future of both CIP and Saltwater Country, funding is often a source of contention.

“One of the critical things is being able to secure sustainable funding and or income generation,” she said.

“I think we 100 percent have the capability in the community but traditionally we don’t have the capital, so being able to partner with the people that do have the capital, that do want to do good things, [we want] for them to get in contact with organisations like ours, so we can work together.”

Peek is grateful for the opportunities provided to her and the support she has had on her journey thus far.

“I am blessed to have those experiences, and also the support of the people around me, so therefore I think it is my responsibility to use that to actually deliver and bring things to the community that they may or may not have had access to.”

By Caris Duncan

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