Aarnja welcomes new CEO!

Maureen O'Meara

Aarnja’s delighted to welcome our new CEO, Maureen O’Meara. Maureen brings to Aarnja a true commitment to empowering Aboriginal people and communities to design their own future aspirations and goals.  

She worked for the Kimberley Land Council at the time of the Crocodile Hole Report and was profoundly moved by the recommendations and the principles set out in this report, which included calls for greater Aboriginal representation, advocacy of Aboriginal rights and concerns, and community empowerment. Maureen says these aspirations, set out by senior Traditional Owners, are being realised through Aarnja’s work.  

‘In the early days, the elders set out principles around self-empowerment and self-governance, and these really made sense to me. Now, all these years later we have Empowered Communities, which is about giving power back to Aboriginal people so we can make decisions for ourselves. I’m proud to be a part of this in my new role with Aarnja,’ Maureen says. 

Maureen has a wealth of experience. She’s worked for the Department of Health in Western Australia and the Department of Health and Communities in the Northern Territory, where she was part of ground-breaking reforms. She’s served as the regional co-ordinator in both the East and West Kimberley for the Department of Housing and the chief executive of Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation. At a board level, Maureen is a director of the Bardi and Jawi Niimidiman Aboriginal Corporation and serves as director and chair of Aboriginal Housing—Community Housing Limited.  

She’s looking forward to the challenge of ensuring that Aarnja and Empowered Communities are operating on a high strategic level, rather than a project-driven level. In the next six months, the biggest job will be assessing the  organisations that have received IAS grant funding and measuring the effectiveness of their projects in the community to ensure that the funding is properly addressing community needs.  

We’re thrilled to have Maureen onboard!

Aarnja staff recognised as powerful emerging leader

  Divina D'Anna pictured second from left

Divina D'Anna pictured second from left

Aarnja’s Divina D’Anna is a strong Aboriginal woman who has worked extensively with Kimberley Aboriginal people, specialising in community consultations in the areas of native title, social impacts, self-empowerment and suicide prevention. Last year, she was nominated and then selected to be part of Jawun’s Emerging Leaders program. The program was first established in 2011 to support rising Indigenous leaders to understand and meet the opportunities and challenges of leadership roles. The program is part of Jawun’s broader vision to invest not only in established Indigenous leaders, but also in the next generation. Divina sees a clear path through the pitfalls that often await emerging leaders. “Although changes in generational leadership aren’t so simple in regions like ours, it’s about finding the balance between the old and the new. You can’t forget where the vision comes from. Good leadership involves keeping culture alive and letting it evolve in this new world we live in.” To read more about Jawun’s Emerging Leaders program click here.

Press release: Straight talking women in Broome

  Click the image for our official media release. 

Click the image for our official media release. 

Aboriginal women will travel from far and wide across the vast Kimberley to converge in Broome next week for the region’s first ever Straight Talk, gaining skills to become powerful advocates and tackle the issues of importance to their communities.

Former senator, Olympic gold medallist and Straight Talk trailblazer Nova Peris, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Co-Chair Jackie Huggins and Kimberley MP Josie Farrer are among the highly respected and well-known Indigenous women who will take part in the event.

The three-day event, which starts on Monday 9 October, will be attended by about 40 participants from areas including Beagle Bay, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra, Derby, Wyndham, Dampier Peninsula and Broome.

The gathering comes after lobbying by Kimberley women who have participated in previous national Straight Talk summits - and has been made possible by a unique partnership between Oxfam Australia and Kimberley Aboriginal membership organisation Aarnja.

Straight Talk facilitator Michelle Deshong, who has been involved in national and regional events that have brought together more than 600 women since Oxfam started the program eight years ago, said Aboriginal women had a powerful role in leading change.

“This regional meeting is about harnessing the capacity of really strong and connected women across the region,” said Ms Deshong, who is also a member of Oxfam’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander board advisory committee.

“The partnership between Oxfam and Aarnja also shows that if you think outside the box, you can achieve interesting things.”

Aarnja Executive Assistant Attika Edgar, who took part in last year’s national Straight Talk summit in Canberra, said she hoped women would leave the event with a greater level of confidence in their crucial roles as leaders in their communities.

“The program is about giving women stepping stones to build on their own skills and strategies that will help them engage with all levels of politics, government and their communities to bring about positive change,” Ms Edgar said.

Ms Peris, a proud Kimberley woman who has been involved in Straight Talk programs since 2010, said the program helped women build a shield of resilience and validated the phenomenal roles they already played in their communities.

“Straight Talk brings together strong, resilient Kimberley women who all have some leadership role within their community and this will further empower them through sharing their stories, their struggles and how they have overcome these challenges,” Ms Peris said.

Kathleen Cox, who will travel from the Dampier Peninsula to participate in the program, said women needed to be a strong voice for their communities, but rarely had the chance to come together and talk about their

shared issues and ideas.

“I hope to gain some knowledge, strategies and skills to help me understand political processes where I can confidently advocate for communities and satellite stations on the Dampier Peninsula,” Ms Cox said.

“There are so many issues in our region, but keeping in mind, the issues should not all be negative – we can choose to focus on positive issues and positive opportunities for growth, and we need a platform to be able to do this.

“I am looking forward to a feeling of empowerment – through everybody sharing dreams, sharing stories and sharing ideas for fixing our problems at the grass root level and supporting each other, particularly in women being involved in business and creating business opportunities for women.”

For interviews or further information, please contact Amanda Banks at Oxfam on 0411 449 653 or amandab@oxfam.org.au or Attika Edgar at Aarnja on 0499 332 020 or admin@aarnja.org.au 

Free Governance Workshop !

Aarnja is excited to announce it will be running a free governance workshop on Thursday 12th October. The workshop will provide an overview of good governance principles, explore the concepts of Indigenous cultural governance and provide practical examples of how individuals and community organisations have successfully implemented good governance ethics into their day to day operations. For the full flyer, click the image below. 

KLC, KALACC, KLRC and Aarnja joint statement

Aarnja

Our ancestors walked this land for thousands upon thousands of years. They had laws, languages and cultures that survive until this day.

We are gathered here at Lombadina/Djarindjin communities for three days of deliberations as part of our four peak organisations’ annual general meetings. During this week we display our continued connection to traditional lands and the continued practice of our languages and cultures.

Fifty years ago Australia voted yes to change the constitution and twenty-five years ago the Mabo decision was handed down recognising our rights to the land. Today, the Federal Court recognises Kimberley Aboriginal people as the traditional land owners of 80 per cent of this region.

But in 2017, Aboriginal people are yet again on the wrong side of social indicators as proven by this year’s Closing the Gap report. We still have one of the worst suicide rates in the country and the world, and we are still striving to carve out a positive future for our children.

Despite continued acknowledgement of the importance of our cultural practices, actions speak louder than words. Government support for our continued cultural practices only represents three quarters of a per cent of the total Aboriginal budget.

Languages are the core of our land and cultures. We are still waiting for a government to publicly acknowledge our human right to speak our languages and to work with us on appropriate ways of reclaiming, reviving and maintaining languages to ensure our continued connection to land and practicing of culture.

The Federal and previous WA State Liberal and National Government said they wanted to work with us through Empowered Communities to deliver outcomes for our people on the ground. Instead they decided to prioritise matters for Aboriginal people according to Mr Andrew Forrest’s Creating Parity report. Once again doing things to Aboriginal people rather than with them.

The previous State Government failed to recognise our native title rights to make an income. They never acknowledged our rights to generate income from carbon trading. And they never recognised our rights to sustain our remote communities or protect our heritage.

The previous Premier said he “didn’t want to see…the Kimberley tied up in conservation or by Aboriginal corporations where you get unproductive stations and a lack of control of feral species”.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Positive legacies are created by working with us. Aboriginal people get their native title and should be able to determine what they do on their land.

We challenge the new Western Australian Labor Government not to be like the last – a Liberal National Government which sought to shut us out completely.

We call on the McGowan Government to work with us. You have a unique opportunity to truly change the conversation about Aboriginal affairs in this state. Time is of the essence.

We are still waiting for action on the protection of the Fitzroy River. We are still waiting for real action on the divestment of ALT lands. This is not the first time we have heard a promise from a Labor or a Liberal Government to transfer lands back to the rightful owners.
Our Member for the Kimberley, Josie Farrer, has worked hard to have Aboriginal people recognised in the WA constitution. Now we want to bring force to those words to truly reflect this recognition.

We, the Kimberley mob, endorse and support the Uluru statement. We call on the Australian Government and Opposition to support a referendum on a voice in the constitution and we call again on the WA Labor Government to engage with us and Indigenous people throughout the state about a process of comprehensive settlements.

The Kimberley Land Council, Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre, Kimberley Language Resource Centre and Aarnja call on the State Government to prioritise funding and support for the following areas:

  • Respect and recognition of native title – Native title should be seen as an opportunity, not a barrier. We want native title to be recognised as being equal to other property rights in Western Australia.
  • Language – Kimberley Aboriginal languages are primarily oral languages. We need support for our goal of teaching on country to ensure the continuation of languages and knowledge. Programs such as language nests should be resourced Kimberley-wide. New technologies are needed to make written resources accessible to language groups. Funding should be directed to ensure Aboriginal languages interpreters are readily available across the region. Genuine collaboration is needed to ensure that languages and knowledge are integrated into the western education system.
  • Culture – We need proper support for our cultural practice. Culture is the fundamental authority for our connection and decision making for our land.
  • Land tenure reform – It is not right to extinguish native title merely for development certainty. We need land tenure reform that supports and sustains native title.
  • Aboriginal Heritage Protection – We require assurance that Aboriginal heritage will be given the highest level of protection.
  • Economic development – Companies should not be able to develop projects without a native title impacts agreement. We, the Traditional Owners, want the opportunity to develop our lands for the benefit of our regions and the nation.
  • Strong families and communities – We call for urgent action to address the significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal children being removed from families and taken into out of home care. We want a government that supports us to strengthen our communities with our right to free, prior and informed consent at the forefront of any policies designed to help our mob.
  • Engagement – Commit to a process of engagement so we can sit at the table as equals. We require long term commitments to plan and jointly decide long-term resourcing which focusses on family development designed by and for local people.

Agreed to and endorsed at the combined AGMs of KLC, KALACC, KLRC and Aarnja Sep 19 – 21.
Anthony Watson, Chairman, KLC
Frank Davey and Merle Carter, Chairs, KALACC
Patsy Bedford, Chairperson, KLRC
Marty Sibosado, Chairman, Aarnja