People call me MK. I was born in Port Hedland, and I have been away from the place a little while, but I came back eventually, for family and the lifestyle. You can’t leave your country; the red hills, the dirt and the rivers. In Port Hedland there are no traffic lights, people bother to say hello or pull up next to you if you’re broken down and ask if you need a lift and check if you’re okay. There is very little class structure; in Perth there is that definite class structure which I notice in sporting clubs and restaurants when I visit. I was the first Aboriginal Justice of the Peace in the Pilbara, and I worked with the Government for thirty seven years, but for the past few years I have been running my own consultancy business with my partner, she lives in Two Rocks and is flying up tomorrow.
We have been delivering Parent and Community Engagement programs to the communities surrounding Port Hedland and beyond. This program is about education; we engage parents and teach them about leadership, financial literacy, school partnerships, and aspects of governance, for example, how to run effective meetings. We touch on sexual abuse, all sorts of issues. We get people to achieve three goals over the year and they have to tell each other what the goals are to help them reach and achieve these.
We are constantly questioning our methods to make sure we are teaching the right way and that there are positive outcomes. It’s the only way to achieve goals, we have their respect and they have got our respect. We do the real stuff with communities and we are receiving accolades because of our success in best practice models. Anybody can come to the workshop but we prefer Aboriginal parents to attend. It’s a satisfying job and it keeps me busy, the money is not as much as I would make working in an office job, but it does have freedom, and flexibility.
Maureen has won NAIDOC Female Elder of the Year (2012) for contributions to community service, and was nominated for Australian of the Year Award (2012). She is a health and education advocate, regularly attending conferences around the world, including the World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education held in Peru, South America.