The Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) region is in the Central Australian Desert. It’s characterised by red soil, dry grasses, and home to remote, remote communities.
It’s an area and a group of people we too-rarely talk about. But one woman, Andrea Mason, is determined to change this.
She is the coordinator of the NPY Women’s Council (NPYWC). It’s a council responsible for 350,000 square kilometres of desert and 26 Aboriginal communities. It’s located at the intersection of the Northern Territory, South Australia and West Australia borders.
Mason is a former Australian political candidate.
She was the first-ever Australian indigenous women to lead a political party in 2004.
Last year, she was named the ‘Indigenous leader and business woman of the year’.
And, now, for her efforts in giving a voice to more than 3000 women in the NPY Region, she has been recognised as a finalist in the 2017 Australian of the Year Awards. She’s been named Northern Territory’s Australian of the Year.
“If I could sum up the spirit of [the NPYWC], it would be this: ‘Though we are many, we also are one’ and that actually sums up the honouring of the Australian of the Year awards,” Mason told the ceremony at the Darwin Convention Centre last November.
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The NPYWC works to improve the quality of life in women in Aboriginal communities. To help families raise healthy, resilient children.
The organisation runs programs, workshop and healthcare services on child nutrition and well-being.
It educates women on domestic and family violence by providing resources to help women recognise, talk about and report this violence.
NPYWC also empowers women financially, helping them to find meaningful and culturally-appropriate employment opportunities.
“I often see the hardest of relationships, the most difficult of trauma, but in that I see many women and many men show incredible hope and a fortitude and resilience,” Mason said.
Mason has lead a remarkable life.
She was born in Subiaco, Western Australian and is the daughter of an Aboriginal Christian pastor. She grew up between Subiaco and Adelaide in South Australia. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1998, she worked in housing and employment in the South Australian Public Service.
In 2002, after completing a Bachelor of Laws Degree, Mason began working as a personal assistant to Andrew Evans, a member of the South Australian Legislative Council and leader of the South Australian branch of the Family First Party.
Only two years later, on August 8, 2004, the Family First Party elected Mason as leader. She became the first-ever Indigenous Australian woman to lead an Australian political party.
Now, she's been awarded the highest honour for her work in helping women in a minority population that is rife with issues in mental health and domestic violence.
She is making the world a better place for women and children and, for this, she deserves our thanks and our congratulations.