Dubbo’s Kirsty Hargraves and Narromine’s Lynda Edwards have been named alongside some of our state’s most inspiring women as finalists in the 2023 NSW Women of the Year Awards.
Member for the Dubbo electorate Dugald Saunders said the annual awards play an important role in recognising inspirational women from diverse backgrounds, not only in our region, but across the state.
“These awards are a wonderful opportunity to honour the women and girls who are making a real difference to our community,” Mr Saunders said.
“Kirsty and Lynda are an inspiration to us all, and it’s wonderful to see them getting the recognition they deserve.
“Congratulations to both women, and thank you for the contribution you’re making to communities across the region, and across NSW.”
There are seven award categories in the 2023 program, including the Premier’s Award for NSW Woman of the Year, which is selected from a pool of category winners.
The local pair are finalists for the NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year Award.
Kirsty is a proud Tubbagah and Binjan Woman from Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi Country who has worked for more than ten years at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, delivering high impact programs for Indigenous at-risk young people and children.
Kirsty’s cornerstone program at Taronga is Walanmarra, meaning “to make strong now” in Wiradjuri language. The program works to close the gap for young Indigenous children and youth who are facing difficulties and uncertainly with their lives in out-of-home care and education.
In partnership with Department of Community Services and Justice, Walanmarra provides ongoing support and stability to hundreds of children and youth, deepening their connection to Country and Culture. The program focuses on life, communication and social skills while delivering key education outcomes to some of the state’s most vulnerable children.
Since the program commenced in 2012, more than 300 students have completed the course and more than six students have secured employment at the zoo. With the initial success of Walanmarra, Kirsty secured further funding of more than $300,000 each year to expand the program to work with disengaged and at-risk youth.
Through Kirsty’s leadership these programs have positively impacted the lives of children, youth and the local community by providing increased Aboriginal employment at Taronga Zoo.
Kirsty says: “I’m very, very proud. They’re amazing, we have a very diverse team, and we’ve sort of tried to build it up like it’s a family. We know that when it comes to Indigenous people, if it’s a family style environment, we thrive. My passion is to make sure that Aboriginal people are getting into jobs where they are working on Country, and working with kids, all kids but Koori kids in particular, to know they’ve got a safe space to come to and there’s someone always there for them.”
Lynda is a proud Wangkumara woman who is a dedicated voice and volunteer for her community and a passionate advocate for the financial rights, fairness and inclusion of First Nations people across NSW and Australia.
Lynda has worked as a financial counsellor for more than 20 years, sharing her expertise of the financial sector to help educate and increase the financial literacy of her community. She is driven by a genuine sense of purpose and a desire to achieve better, fairer financial outcomes for First Nations people.
Lynda spent the early part of her career as an Aboriginal Liaison Officer with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and NSW Police. She joined CentaCare Wilcannia Forbes as an Aboriginal Financial Literacy Worker with the ‘Manage Your Income’ Program – a project she would later head up for more than nine years.
Lynda’s work with CentaCare has been pivotal in leading campaigns to call out unethical sales tactics and build financial health across the region. She has fought against unfair practices targeting First Nations people, including Telstra’s mis-selling of telco products to people in remote communities which led to Telstra incurring a $50 million fine as a result of an investigation by the ACCC.
Lynda’s financial counselling over the past 20 years has resulted in significant improvements in the economic and social wellbeing of thousands of First Nations people and spared many the stress and anguish of extreme financial hardship.
Lynda says: “It’s still very surreal to me! I was blown away because I actually felt really honoured to be nominated in the first instance – I never thought I’d ever make the shortlist. I think it’s growing up really poor and being marginalised and seeing how my parents and grandparents and my community where I grew up in Wilcannia, how people just didn’t have the capacity to really understand finance and what their rights were. All the best to the other finalists. They’re all amazing!”
The winners will be announced on Thursday, 9 March at the 2023 NSW Women of the Year Awards Ceremony at the International Convention Centre, Sydney and livestreamed online.
The awards are part of NSW Women’s Week, which runs from Monday, 6 March to Sunday, 12 March.
To read more about the awards and all of the finalists, visit www.women.nsw.gov.au