The annual New Tracks Learning Festival conference brings together Indigenous alumni from AGSM’s bespoke Indigenous leadership and development programs. Designed as a one-day workshop, it allows past participants to reapply learned skills, reconnect with friends and use their vast and varied knowledge to tackle real-world problems. 

This year, the 77 participants workshopped ideas to build a sustainable business model for the Lady Northcott ferry, now also known as Wirawi, and turn the former passenger ferry into a successful commercial enterprise. 


In 2020, Transport for NSW gifted the Lady Northcott to Tribal Warrior, a not-for-profit community organisation, based in Redfern. Led by Shane Phillips as CEO and a highly respected Aboriginal leader, Tribal Warrior is a registered training organisation that helps provide employment opportunities for Indigenous people in the maritime industry. It also plays a huge part in supporting local youth and Aboriginal families through mentorship programs and maintaining connections with culture.

“It's about getting our young ones focused on rebuilding themselves and getting families connected. The impact that it's had on us as a community is profound,” Shane said in his opening address during the New Tracks Learning Festival conference held last month in Sydney.

“We are responsible, and we're seeing results. We empower our people, we empower ourselves with knowledge, systems and culture and by looking through this lens of strength, we can break destructive cycles.” 

Applying a cultural lens to a significant commercial opportunity

The Lady Northcott presents significant opportunities for Tribal Warrior to expand its reach - and the organisation is looking to make a strategic plan for the best path forward. 

“We've been around for 20 years. We've worked hard, we don't really have to de-risk our organisation. But we have to make sure we turn obtaining the Lady Northcott into a solid commercial opportunity to take our business to the next level,” Shane said.

AGSM facilitators and Alumni led small teams through a day of workshops and sessions, to develop sustainable propositions for the Lady Northcott. Ideas that will impact not only the Tribal Warrior community, but all who step onto this historic vessel.
With a capacity of 815 people, there’s great potential to expand on Tribal Warrior’s current Aboriginal Cultural Cruise offering, which is currently running with the Mari Nawi, transporting around 200 guests per trip. 

The ideas developed by alumni of AGSM’s Indigenous programs reflected how the ferry would have the biggest and most environmentally responsible impact on the Sydney Harbour community and the tourism industry, as well as being a viable business venture for Tribal Warrior.

Each team had to present their ideas back to a panel of judges including Shane Phillips; Professor Mark Rose, AGSM Adjunct Faculty member; Professor Leisa Sargent, Senior Deputy Dean and Co-Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at UNSW Business School; and Mark Champley, AGSM Adjunct faculty member, Learning & Development Associate People & Culture at Transport for NSW. 

“Our panel was impressed by the creative and strategic recommendations, and we will continue to work with Shane as the project progresses,” says Eva Freedman, AGSM Associate Faculty member and Indigenous program director. 

“The day proved to be so successful that attendees have asked us to use this same format in the future to support other Indigenous businesses around Australia.” 

Building upon community connections


Mark Champley was instrumental in gifting the Lady Northcott ferry to Tribal Warrior, along with AGSM alumnus Scott Hoskin, who also attended the New Tracks festival and took part in the day’s events. 

Scott took the opportunity to participate in the AGSM bespoke short course ‘Transport for NSW Aboriginal Career Development and Mentoring Program (ACDMP)’ back in 2020, which changed the trajectory of his career.

He was appointed to the newly created role of Aboriginal Liaison Officer for State Transit Authority, Sydney Buses and helped draw up Transport NSW’s Reconciliation Plan. This plan paved the way for the vessel to change ownership.

“When Mark told me that the Lady Northcott was being towed up to Newcastle, I said to him that Tribal Warrior might be able to procure it through the Reconciliation Action Plan for Transport NSW. And that's how it started,” Scott says.

“So, Tribal Warrior put a proposal together, tabled it to the Reconciliation Advisory Committee and got the ball rolling within Transport NSW,” Scott said. 

Scott sees the procurement of the Lady Northcott ferry as one of the best acts of reconciliation for the state in recent times. 

“It's part of the Premier's Priorities to engage with Aboriginal businesses and First Nations people. Engaging with Tribal Warrior is further enabling them to create sustainability for their own community in Redfern.” 

Scott was inspired by the ideas that came out of New Tracks Learning Festival, and the way it showcased how powerful mob can be when coming together to support their community and local businesses. 

“There was a great sense of connection. A lot of the leaders there on the day had different ideas and visions for the Lady Northcott and with the great minds that were in the room, some of the presentations blew us away – particularly from the younger ones,” he said. 

Scott says he was proud that Transport NSW had the largest cohort at the New Tracks festival, and he was grateful for the opportunity to further expand his network and connect with even more First Nations people that he wouldn’t cross paths within his day-to-day work.

“It was great to have the opportunity to talk to other Indigenous leaders and discuss things they go through in their businesses and what happens in their communities. We all have similar struggles in our communities, so we’re sharing those connections and ideas.”

AGSM Indigenous Alumni who attended the New Tracks Learning Festival participated in the following programs:

•    The Emerging Indigenous Executive Leadership Development Program (EIELP),
•    The NSW Public Service Aboriginal Career and Leadership Development Program (ACLDP),
•    The Transport for NSW Aboriginal Career Development and Mentoring Program (ACDMP), 
•    The APS excELerate Program

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