By Reconciliation Australia CEO Leah Armstrong

I am a true believer in the investment of Aboriginal women and girls. Investing in women raises the fortunes of their families, communities and the nation. It also generates the greatest return on investment locally, nationally and globally.

A recent report on the philanthropic investment in Aboriginal women and girls has outlined the key barriers and challenges they face. These barriers erode our women’s abilities to participate in their economies and to support their families—whether as employees, mangers or entrepreneurs.

Two fantastic examples of the power and potential of women as ‘change agents’ are the NPY Women’s Council and Martumuli Artists.  Both organisations were finalists the 2012 Indigenous Governance Awards, with the NPY Women’s Council named the winner for the incorporated organisation category.

The NPY Women’s Council is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected Aboriginal organisations.  Established over 30 years ago by the women of the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankungtjatjara lands across SA, NT and WA, the organisation works to strengthen and promote the health, safety, culture, economic, emotional and social wellbeing of women and their families in these communities.

Martumili Artists’ manager Gabrielle Sullivan, Leah Armstrong and Martumili artist and staff member Kathleen Sorensen at Parngurr, WA. Photo by Wayne Quilliam.

Martumuli Artists represent artists from seven Martu communities in the East Pilbara region.  Martumuli Artists have become a high profile, nationally recognised arts enterprise providing services and opportunities to more than 300 artists—many of whom are women.  These women wanted to pass on their culture and knowledge of Country to the next generation. They wanted to create an arts movement that would support Martu people socially and economically.

Today I know many Aboriginal women who are successfully managing to maintain their family obligations, cultural identity and community connectedness whilst at the same time participating in a western cultural environment, in workplaces and businesses.

Women of Influence: April Long, Jodie Sizer, Leah Armstrong, Merindah Donnelly, Kirstie Parker, Natalie Walker and Nareen Young.Photo courtesy Koori Mail and Fairfax.

We need to create the right environment which supports Aboriginal women and girls to participate in the economy and continue to maintain their family obligations and cultural connectedness.

This is where reconciliation is important.

Reconciliation Australian’s core business is to create the right environment for stronger relationships, national pride and shared prosperity for all Australians.

Stronger relationships that are built on shared knowledge and respect are key to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples participating fully in the economic and social opportunities enjoyed by the wider community.

In turn we believe Australia can build a more economically and socially strong, confident nation.

You can hear more from Leah and some other amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in this short video by AMP.