On International Women's Day 2017, AIATSIS honours Dr June Oscar AO

Empower a woman, empower a nation

The UN Women National Committee’s theme for International Women Day 2017, Empower a woman, empower a nation, is about transforming the lives of women and girls through empowerment.

Dr June Oscar - IWD poster 2017
Dr June Oscar featured in the 2017 International Women's Day poster. Photo: Belinda Mason

Indigenous women around the globe continue to empower women and girls through leadership, advocacy, strength and courage. Whether it’s women in their own local communities and regions or on the international stage, women continue to strive to make a difference to the lives of children and families.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme encapsulates the life of Dr June Oscar AO in Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia. June has had a considerable impact in empowering women and their families to live the life they deserve and aspire.

“My experience in Fitzroy Crossing has allowed me to engage in issues of a national and international nature and to be able to bring these issues to the attention of people outside of the community,” she said.

When June reflected on International Woman’s Day she acknowledged being true to yourself and what really matters to you as an individual and your community. 

“We must take care of our women and girls because our women are precious. We must nurture every girl into womanhood because without her we do not have a world,” said June.

Born in 1962 in Fitzroy Crossing, June is a proud Bunuba woman from the Kimberly region. Whilst June is known for her advocacy and community work as an Aboriginal woman, she also acknowledges her non-Aboriginal heritage. June attributes her foundational learning to the women in her life from an early age.

Dr June Oscar AO pictured with her mother Mona Oscar at Geikie Gorge outside Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia. (Photo by Colin Murty / Newspix)
Dr June Oscar AO pictured with her mother Mona Oscar at Geikie Gorge outside Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia. (Photo by Colin Murty / Newspix)

“I was raised by two women – my mother and grandmother. They were strong Aboriginal women and they carried the history of our people,” June said.

When it comes to the importance of role models and inspirational women, June says that her mother and grandmother’s knowledge of country and culture, the universe and the world, was expansive, extensive and deep.

“They enabled me to enter an intercultural space where I’m able to interact with other women and girls of different cultures, race and ethnicity and to learn from their diversities,” she said.

June has had an impressive career working for Aboriginal communities and organisations and has also held various positions on boards and councils. In 2013, June was recognised as one of the 100 Women of Influence for her work with Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre. Marninwarntikura (meaning women of the region coming together) aims to empower the Indigenous community through supporting an entire family and understanding their cultural, health and well-being needs.

As CEO at Marninwarntikura and Chief investigator for Marulu: the Lililwan Project, June worked with a group of courageous Aboriginal women and girls to address the impacts of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in Fitzroy Crossing. FASD was having devastating effects on Aboriginal families and June with strong women and men in the community knew something had to be done.

The group was able to successfully lobby for alcohol restrictions in the community which resulted in better health management of pregnancies, a decrease in domestic violence and the number of babies being born at a healthy birth weight dramatically improved.

“We must remember that when we as Aboriginal women, step into roles of responsibility, whether it’s in our families, communities or an organisation, that we stand on the strong shoulders of the strong woman who have gone before us."

“Women and girls from all walks of life need to be supported in some way or another, with many women tackling issues that are of importance to the wellbeing of community and the nation,” June said.

June encourages all women and girls to listen and be informed to broaden their knowledge base, become stronger and empowered.

“Every woman and girl has a gift and has a voice and we must all be capable of listening, learning, nurturing and supporting each other. When we do that, we can truly have a diverse humanity,” June said.

In 2017, June was selected as a National Finalist for Australia's Local Hero and was appointed as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

June sees her appointment as representing her people in an ambassadorial role for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples understand their rights.

As a former AIATSIS Council member, the Institute is proud to share June’s story on our annual International Women’s Day poster. International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on the 8th March and aims to create a brighter future for women and girls worldwide.

Last reviewed: 7 Feb 2019