For Yawuru, Karajarri and Torres Strait Islander woman from Broome, Maree Ansey, who was crowned Miss NAIDOC Perth 2013, NAIDOC Week is all about unity and celebrating culture.
Miss NAIDOC Perth is a leadership and empowerment program for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, with the winner crowned during Reconciliation Week in May and participating in community events during NAIDOC Week.
Twenty-four-year-old Maree applied for Miss NAIDOC purely out of curiosity and was “surprised, shocked and overwhelmed,” when she found out she’d won.
But this program is not your average modelling competition, and puts an emphasis on leadership in the community.
“At first I actually thought it was a modelling competition but then I read through the application process and it never actually asked anything about your physical appearance,” say Miss NAIDOC Perth 2013, Maree Ansey.
“It was more about how you’d like to see change in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Community and what you are doing to bring that change about.”
Maree has been involved in many events throughout NAIDOC week, from presenting awards to speaking at schools and local community events. For her, NAIDOC is all about unity and celebrating culture.
“I’m an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, so it’s about the coming together of cultures and celebrating it with the community and across Australia,” she says.
“Being able to educate and provide awareness around this is my life, this is my culture; and it’s how I was brought up. I want everyone to know about that and learn about it, and take it further.
“It’s that refresher every year where we can acknowledge Australia’s First People and the diversity they bring to contemporary Australian culture.”
Maree is the Indigenous Employment Advisor for Leighton Contactors Mining Division. She would like to see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in high-level management positions.
“In this industry I noticed that there aren’t a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the middle to senior level management positions,” she says.
“We have to break down the barriers and look at how we get more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women into these positions.
“We need to recognise that there are smart Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out there, and they are qualified and are getting an education through universities or other tertiary pathways.
“Employers should be looking at them and basing whether they employ them or not on their skills and qualifications, not based on their skin colour, background or where they come from.”
The modest Miss NAIDOC Perth 2013 has the best intentions for her mob at heart and with this title can have her voice heard.
“There have been a lot of compliments on Facebook but more importantly it’s been encouraging,” she says.