CEO of Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjnatjara Women's Council

Interview with Andrea Mason

Be articulate, compassionate and resolve to make a difference. Andrea Mason.

 

Was terrific to watch Andrea Mason take out the Telstra Business Woman of the Year award in Melbourne.

It’s been a big couple of months for the Indigenous leader, nominated for Australian of the Year and winning Northern Territory Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

She leads an organisation giving a powerful voice to 3000 women in a remote part of the Northern Territory.

I caught up with Andrea to discover how she found her formidable voice….

 

Martine Harte: You have devoted your career to helping women raise strong and healthy children and just and fair access for Aboriginal people. Tell us about your work!

 

Andrea Mason: The population in our region who can make the biggest difference in our membership are women aged between 45 and 65-years-old.

They’re the women who have found themselves taking on and understanding women’s law, knowledge and authority through traditional practices.

If you bring together women who have the authority through women’s law and you have women who have gone through the journey of a career in education where they have a high level of capability and knowledge and you join those women together, of course you are going to have powerful organisation.

And that’s what we have here at NPY Women’s Council.

Your website quotes Mantatjara Wilson – “We were born on this land, we birthed on this land, our blood and the blood of our mothers and grandmothers is in this land. We are in this land and the land is in us. We will fight to keep this land for our grandchildren to grow up in.” That is beautiful…

 

Andrea Mason: Well Mantatjara Wilson was a formidable force, she understood what it meant to speak out and be strong, that you had to articulate your position and be very clear.

 

Both Aboriginal culture and white culture has a shameful track record when it comes to domestic violence. Are you seeing inroads?

 

Andrea Mason: So I came to women’s council in 2008, I was really shocked at what I saw here in Alice Springs, the level of violence, also the level of domestic violence amongst our membership, so this was a driving force.

 

You are one of 8 indigenous leaders as part of Empowered communities, how does it work?

 

Andrea Mason: Our community’s premise is based on setting a balance between government and Aboriginal organisations and leaders. So that government becomes an enabler to the ideas that Aboriginal people want to lead in their regions.

 

Can you name achievement of which you are most proud?

 

That we are the only tri-state organisation. So we work in Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, therefore Aboriginal organisations get to see what is happening across borders.

They are exposed to a bigger agenda and that they can be a part of, but also Aboriginal people are reactivating a governance model that was here before white contact.

 

That’s fantastic to hear.

 

Andrea Mason: I think there’s become a wisdom from Aboriginal people who are saying, “We actually had it right from the beginning, we are not going to have the borders.”

That’s been the wonderful thing about he NYP Women’s Council.

 

One of the things we talk about around here is how other women can find their own voice, not necessarily to be famous but to have a voice within their own sphere of influence. Any tips?

 

Andrea Mason:  I can only speak for myself.

My home was Aboriginal, with Aboriginal parents and I did not grow up in a home where there was violence. My parents are very strict in ensuring we didn’t have exposure to alcohol, ganga or cigarettes, they were focused on giving us the best in life and the best educational opportunities..

Find your voice in those things you are passionate about with an understanding that one day you may be able to talk about the things that society finds the most difficult to talk about.

Have a very clear values compass, mine is focussed on a society where everyone gets a fair deal. For that to happen, a society has to give a fair deal to women and girls, I’m fully convinced on that because I have seen what happens within our region.

So I’d say find those things you feel passionate about, develop that area of knowledge, that is just a door that leads to a higher level and nationwide area of discussion.

Be articulate, compassionate and resolve to make a difference.

 

It’s a long road isn’t it?

 

Andrea Mason: Yes, you have to have an incredible level of patience.

The really big systemic issues often take around ten years. Then things turn and change starts to happen.

If you stick to your course, within a period of a decade change does happen.

 

Love it.  And you were the first Aboriginal woman to lead an Australian political party to a federal election, Family First wasn’t successful but what did you take away from the experience?

 

Andrea Mason: An incredible amount of admiration for anyone who stand for public office. It is an incredible journey, there’s  a lot of pushing and pulling, an incredible level of personal investment.

It doesn’t matter what the other person’s political view is it’s a life-changing experience.

 

Before you go, is there something else you would like to share with our community?

 

Andrea Mason: My father’s mother is a Ngaanyatjarra woman which means that I am a NPY woman and for many years I didn’t live in the region.

This opportunity at women’s council has given me an opportunity to connect back with the cultural identity. The ceremonies, the knowledge, the law that women have been practicing for 50,000 years is continuing in Central Australia.

All that goes with this wisdom is accessible if other people choose to reach out and be part of our communities.

 

 

HOOK UP WITH ANDREA:

 

Find out more about Andrea and the NPY Council here. 

Want to hear this engaging woman speak at your workplace or event: drop us a line info@engagingwomen.com.au

About Martine Harte

Martine Harte is founder of Engaging Women, a platform for social good.
She is a dedicated voice in the advancement of women & girls. Contact martine@engagingwomen.com.au.

Learn more about her here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.


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