Top honour for role towards a more reconciled nation

·2-min read

Proud Bundjalung woman Karen Mundine comes from a family of trail-blazing Indigenous activists.

So it is no surprise her family role models inspired her to devote more than 25 years to community engagement and public advocacy, culminating in her role as chief executive of Reconciliation Australia.

Ms Mundine's key involvement in shaping the path towards a reconciled Australia will be recognised at the Australian Awards for Excellence in Women's Leadership on Friday.

It has been a long journey from being raised by her grandparents and extended family in western Sydney while her single mother worked to support them.

It was the kind of big family where they would all talk about the things you're not supposed to: politics, religion and sports.

"I grew up on Darug country out in western Sydney in that extended family environment, like most blackfellas with my grandparents, and lots of aunt and uncles all having their say too," Ms Mundine said.

She said she owed much of her passion for wanting to give back to the community to her grandparents, who made the life-changing decision to move from regional NSW to Sydney to give the children more opportunities.

"We were lucky that my grandparents made a decision to move away from South Grafton in regional NSW to Sydney for better opportunities for their kids and their kids,'' she said.

"It was always instilled in us that since we have had these opportunities and an education that we have a responsibility to give back to mob, to community and to people who haven't had those opportunities."

Ms Mundine said there had been many career highlights and amazing people to work with.

"For me, the moment that sticks most in my mind would have to be working with the stolen generations on the apology,'' she said.

"It was really special for me to be able to work with stolen generations people and to hear their story, but more importantly to be trusted with their story."

Ms Mundine was required to help the survivors tell their stories to the rest of Australia so that they could understand why the apology was important.

"In spending so much time with them leading up to the apology, I saw so much generosity, patience and a lot of joy and love and then to be in the chamber when prime minister Rudd gave the apology was very special."

Ms Mundine said it was an honour to receive the national honour from Women and Leadership Australia and she was in awe of all the award winners.

"I am really humbled to be in the company of people like Aunty Pat Anderson, as they are people that I aspire to be when I grow up and to have the level of impact they had," she said.

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