TWO inspirational Shoalhaven Aborigines have taken out major awards at the annual Regional NAIDOC Awards Dinner in Kiama.
Waminda employee Hayley Longbottom was awarded the Worker of the Year, while Aunty Pat Lester was named the Female Elder of the Year.
Ms Longbottom’s award recognises an individual working with the Aboriginal community who demonstrates excellence in their field of work, is an inspirational role model and shows active leadership.
She completed her training as an Aboriginal Primary Health Care worker and is one of a handful of Aboriginal women in the community who practises clinically.
She is also one of the key workers working in triage in her organisation.
A mother of five, she is the only Aboriginal health worker in her specific field working one-on-one with women in chronic disease management, prevention and intervention in a clinical capacity and has a strong relationship in the community, being from Jerrinja Aboriginal community.
Aunty Pat Lester, who is highly respected in both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, was named Female Elder of the Year.
She was instrumental as a supportive elder in developing the Shoalhaven Aboriginal Youth Engagement Strategy, from which an Aboriginal Youth Leadership Group is being developed.
She volunteers her own time to mentor and support youth and encourages consultative processes in all aspects of Aboriginal issues.
While open to new approaches and ideas, she also ensures cultural appropriateness, providing guidance to both less-experienced Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in gaining the best outcomes.
A number of other awards were announced on the evening including the Organisation of the Year Illawarra Koori Men’s Support Group; the Female Young Achiever of the Year Kiama’s Jazmin Tikkeros; the Male Young Achiever of the Year Geoffrey Maher; and Male Elder of the Year Mt Warrigal’s Uncle Gerald Brown.
There was also a special appearance at the awards by the recently announced winner of the National Male Elder of the Year, Uncle Richard Archibald.
Following the presentations a message stick, designed by Kiama Elder Stephen Russell, was presented to Shoalhaven Councillor Amanda Findley in recognition that her council had been selected to host the 2015 awards.