NAIDOC Week is a chance for all Australians to come together to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We spoke to three women making a difference in their communities and across Australia to highlight this year’s theme ‘Because of her, we can’.
Despite having only lived in the Kununurra area for just over a year, Natasha is making an impression on her local community. Natasha heads up the Department of Human Services’ Kununurra office in Western Australia and her passion and commitment for helping others is already being noticed.
“Everyone knows everyone here,” Natasha said. “And most staff have been based here long-term or have grown up here.
“I was worried about fitting in, but I’ve had a lot of feedback from community members that it’s good to see an Aboriginal woman in a management position.
“By being proactive with our work in the community we can get great outcomes for our customers while doing the best job possible to deliver essential government payments and services.”
Acting Region Manager Narelle Laurie also has a lot of praise for Natasha.
“From the moment you meet Natasha, it’s clear she wants to deliver the best possible service to the community,” Narelle said.
“She’s also passionate about the development of her staff. In her short time as manager she has built great relationships, and she really encourages staff to believe in their ability to make a difference.”
Natasha said this NAIDOC Week has given her pause to reflect on the Indigenous women in her life.
“My eldest daughter is my inspiration,” Natasha said. “She’s the reason I’m the person I am today.
“She shows resilience, confidence and maturity beyond her years – even in hard times.
“She’s never allowed trauma to define who she is or who she will become. She has become my role model and a role model to many.”
Located 400kms inland from Broome and more than 2,500kms from Perth, the Kimberley town of Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, would fit most people’s definition of ‘remote’. It’s here you’ll find Zara, who is part of the department’s remote servicing team. She travels to remote communities to deliver essential payments and services.
“Some of the communities we travel to don’t have mobile reception, Wi-Fi or internet connectivity,” Zara said.
“By providing face to face service, we’re able to make contact with some of our most vulnerable customers.
“As an Indigenous woman, I identify as Australian South Sea Islander, Murray Islander, Aboriginal Murray Island, Aboriginal, Nwaiygi and Njadjon ji, and I have a desire to help my people.
“Working in remote areas, I get to travel to some of the most beautiful country in Australia and learn first-hand from the world’s oldest surviving culture.”
Narelle believes it’s Zara’s ability to bring people together that makes her so successful in her role.
“Zara has a strong connection with her family and heritage and is an active advocate in supporting and mentoring our Indigenous staff within the Kimberley Region,” Narelle said.
“She has an established comradery with her colleagues in our region and brings a great sense of humour to all that she does.”
Zara believes that NAIDOC Week is an important time of year.
“I believe our culture, identity, accomplishments, and history – negatives and positives, need to be recognised and celebrated 365 days a year,” Zara said. “To me NAIDOC Week means that as a collective voice we can celebrate, educate, heal and unite.
“This year’s NAIDOC theme gives me an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the strong women in my life who have shaped and influenced me personally.
“Without the love, patience, kindness, honesty, loyalty, education, values and support of my mother, grandmother, aunties, cousins, sisters and friends, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“I hope I can be a fraction of the role model they are and that I can be a positive influence in my own way for young and old.”
Kadie’s commitment and passion for helping Indigenous customers and communities has been the driving force in her career.
An an Indigenous Service Officer working in and around Nowra on the South Coast of New South Wales, Kadie says she is proud of her heritage.
“I’m a proud Aboriginal Women from the Yuin Nation, and love helping Indigenous people,” Kadie said.
“I come from a large Aboriginal family on the South Coast and also have family from La Perouse in Sydney.
“I’m proud to say I work for a department that embraces Indigenous culture, staff and customers.”
Kadie helps Indigenous customers in service centres and through outreach activities.
”By working with customers outside of an office, in a place where they are comfortable, I’m able to build better rapport with them, and this helps me better meet their needs,” she said.
Shane Jeffries, Kadie’s manager for the past four years, highlights the strength of the connection Kadie has in the communities she works with.
“Kadie is very passionate and dedicated,” she said.
“As a local, she’s well respected by the staff and the community. She is really good at dealing with complex questions and is always willing to help her colleagues.”
For Kadie, NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate the importance and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture on a national platform, and she said the theme is particularly important.
“To me, the theme is about our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts who were raised in a period that was hard, but still managed to be resilient and survive!” Kadie said.
“It’s about the strong Elders and women in our communities who taught us in the past and still teach us today by sharing their stories.
“I’ve been with the department just over 10 years, and every year NAIDOC Week gets bigger and better! It brings me so much joy to see colleagues decorating our offices, displaying Indigenous artefacts, wearing NAIDOC Week shirts and engaging with Elders and local community members at local events.”