Indigenous Governance Awards winners announced

One of Australia’s oldest and most respected Aboriginal organisations, the NPY Women’s Council, and the West Kimberley youth program, Yiriman Project have won the 2012 Indigenous Governance Awards (IGAs).

A record number of over 100 applications was received from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and projects this year—more than tripling the number from the previous awards round in 2010.

IGA Chair Professor Mick Dodson said choosing the winners was an incredibly tough decision and demonstrated that this year’s finalists are absolute leaders in their respective fields.

“The high quality of applicants and finalists made this year’s decision the hardest yet—the slimmest of margins separated the finalists, because they are all excellent.

“Being a judge in these awards opens your eyes and your heart to the extraordinary work that is being done out there. I wish all Australians could visit these organisations on the ground and see and hear what we saw and heard.”

An independent judging panel visted each of the eight finalists throughout August and September assessing them against five criteria including self-determination, cultural relevance and legitimacy and future planning and government resilience.

The NPY Women’s Council was the winner for Category A: Outstanding examples of Indigenous governance in Indigenous incorporated organisations, while The Yiriman Project took out Category B: Outstanding examples of Indigenous governance in a non-incorporated initiative or project.

In Category A the Highly Commended award went to the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) and in Category B to the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly.

“The NPY Women’s Council has courageously tackled issues, but it is their governance and commitment to culture that allows them to take on tough issues,” Professor Dodson said.

“The Yiriman Project is addressing a vital community need in an innovative, well-structured and cost-effective manner. They have clear and effective ownership by the elders with strong cultural underpinning—it’s a model that could be replicated in other parts of the Kimberley and the country
at large.”

The Indigenous Governance Awards were created in 2005 by Reconciliation Australia in partnership with BHP Billiton, to identify, celebrate and promote strong leadership and effective governance.

Today’s Awards presentation also coincided with the launch of BHP Billiton’s fourth Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

BHP Billiton CEO Marius Kloppers said: “We see our relationship over the past 10 years with Reconciliation Australia and the support of the Indigenous Governance Awards as a powerful platform to acknowledge, support and celebrate achievements within Indigenous Australia today, and to support the leaders of tomorrow.”

Reconciliation Australia CEO Leah Armstrong added that strong governance and the empowerment of communities are among the essential foundations of reconciliation.

“What we see today at the Indigenous Governance Awards are examples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples taking a lead role in their own affairs,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Our job is to share this around the nation, to help breed that success, and see it replicated in all our communities.”

2012 Indigenous Governance Awards winners

Winner Category A: Outstanding examples of Indigenous governance in an Indigenous incorporated organisations

NPY Women’s Council

NPY Women’s Council is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected Aboriginal organisations. Established in 1980, NPYWC works to strengthen and promote the health, safety and culture, economic, emotional and social wellbeing of women and families of the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara lands. NPYWC is now a major provider of human services to Anangu and Yarnangu people in its tri-state region. Numerous community, health and safety initiatives, as well as the award-winning Ngangkari (traditional healing) and Tjanpi (fibre art) projects demonstrate how this organisation reflects the strength, creativity and resilience of its desert base.

Highly Commended Category A: Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care

SNAICC is the national non-government peak body that advocates on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. Based in Melbourne, SNAICC has a small team of dedicated staff and is governed by a National Executive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Winner Category B: Outstanding examples of Indigenous governance in a non-incorporated initiative or project

Yiriman Project

The Yiriman Project started when Karajarri, Nyikina, Mangala and Walmajarri elders in the West Kimberley became concerned about young people who were harming themselves with drugs and alcohol and getting in trouble with the law. They set up the project to help take young people, elders and other members of the community on trips to country. It has variously been described as a ‘youth diversionary program’, a ‘cultural maintenance project’ and ‘a way to heal young people, heal country and heal community’.

Highly Commended Category B: Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly

The Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly was set up as a regional governance structure to support Community Working Parties (CWPs) and governance bodies in the 16 Murdi Paaki region communities. MPRA’s governance charter expresses: “a resolve to manage our own affairs, build sustainable communities and determine our own future. It demonstrates the depth of our resolve to make real improvements in our well-being.”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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