Our leaders

We come together as leaders from eight regions across urban, regional and remote Australia to drive change.

Andrea Mason

NPY Lands

I joined the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council in 2008 and since then I have been committed to delivering long-term positive change in the communities across the NPY Lands. Prior to joining NPY Women’s Council, I spent significant periods working in both the Australian and South Australian public sectors.

I am a proud Western Australian, my mother’s people are Karonie and my father’s people are Ngaanyatjarra. I have family and extended family throughout the NPY region. I am looking forward to the genuine partnership that Empowered Communities will create between Indigenous people and governments. I see this chance for real change.

Chris Ingrey

Inner Sydney

The recent participation of the younger generation in the La Perouse Aboriginal community has been inspiring to me. I believe my community is in a great position to continue to work towards exercising self-determination and develop health, education, housing and employment opportunities into the future. I see Empowered Communities as the vehicle that will drive this development in Inner Sydney.

I am of Dharawal (Botany Bay and Illawarra, New South Wales) and Dhungutti (Macleay Valley, New South Wales) descent and my work as the CEO of the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council means I am very involved in my community. I am excited about what is coming with Empowered Communities; I am excited that our community will get a say in our future.

Denise Bowden

North East Arnhem Land

I am a born-and-bred Northern Territory Indigenous woman. I have a background working in Indigenous affairs in very remote Australia and currently work with the Yolngu of North East Arnhem Land, as the CEO of the Yothu Yindi Foundation and the Director of the annual Garma Festival. 

I aspire to create a future where Indigenous Australians have the same level of wellbeing, life opportunities and choices as non-Indigenous Australians. I believe that Empowered Communities has the potential to create this change by focusing on education, economic development and increased wellbeing through a grassroots, upward, regionally specific approach.

Fiona Jose

Cape York

My grandfather’s country is Kuku Yalanji and my grandmother is from the Torres Strait. My father and our family spent most of our younger years growing up in the Miallo/Cooya Beach region. Most of my adult life, I have worked hard to bridge the unemployment gap through enabling Indigenous people to have the capabilities needed to gain meaningful employment in any industry. I have a passion for education and know that a quality education for our young people will set them up for a better future.

It’s been a privilege for me as one of the next generation of Indigenous leaders to be working with leaders of Empowered Communities. The strength and example of our old people and elders in Cape York and their triumphs give me the courage to do what’s needed by focusing on individuals and families and working at a regional level to achieve outcomes that give people a life they will value.

Ian Trust

East Kimberley

For most of my life, I have been based in the East Kimberley and I currently serve as the chairman and executive director of Wunan Foundation. I have an exciting vision of a better future for Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley—a future beyond welfare and government dependency.

In the past, I have worked to progress this vision through initiatives like the ATSIC Regional Council’s ‘future building’ strategy and through reforms in the Aboriginal housing and infrastructure sector. I see Empowered Communities as the structure that will break the cycle of passive welfare dependancy and create fundamental change in my community and other communities across Australia.

Marty Sibosado

West Kimberley

I am a proud Baard and Ngarluma man based in Broome in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia. I am passionate about creating a stronger voice and more opportunities for Kimberley Aboriginal people. Since the 1980s I have worked across advocacy, social enterprise and community development initiatives to progress just that.

I pay my respects to the many leaders and elders who have come before and laid the groundwork for change. To me, Empowered Communities is a way to achieve the regional reforms that we have been calling for in the Kimberley region for decades. It is a way to work better with each other and governments, to create a brighter future for our kids and young people. 

Noel Pearson

Cape York

My father’s country is Bagaarrmugu on south-eastern Cape York and my mother’s people are Kuku Yalanji. I have spent my adult life working for the future of my people in Cape York Peninsula.

Since the early 2000s, I have been part of policy development and conceptual thinking on the need for reform of the Australian welfare system, and the need for those trapped in passive welfare to shift from passivity to responsibility. I have been working collaboratively with the other Empowered Communities regions since 2013 on articulating - and now implementing - the architecture that will enable communities to decide their own futures—to ensure that culture, language and tradition have their place within socially and economically developed communities, and that each community can have its say in the direction it takes.

Paul Briggs

Goulburn Murray

I am a Yorta Yorta man who was raised on the banks of the Dungala at Cummeragunja. I understand the aspirations of the great Yorta Yorta leaders who came off Cummera to advocate the rights of our people. For me it has been natural to advocate for a more prosperous future, protecting the rights of Yorta Yorta people and other Aboriginal nations. 

Since the early 1970s, I have been active in Aboriginal rights and advancement of our people. Starting with my experiences trying to negotiate the criminal justice system, I could see that to make a genuine difference in the lives of our young people required us to move beyond the cycle of bureaucracy and crisis intervention to building a real vision of a positive future for our community. For me, Empowered Communities is an opportunity to negotiate a shared vision for the future of an inclusive and respectful Australian society, including in my region of Goulburn-Murray.

Sean Gordon

Central Coast

I am a Wangkumarra and Barkintji man, and grew up at Brewarrina in western New South Wales. I am excited to implement Empowered Communities in the Central Coast of New South Wales. Since 2013, I have been working collaboratively with my colleagues to convene the Empowered Communities group of national Indigenous leaders. 

I believe we can have a real impact on a state and federal level through the united approach of Empowered Communities. To my knowledge, we’ve not had eight regions come together to do the type of initiative that we’re working on. It’s unique and it’s never been done before. If we develop this and we get it right, then we’re setting a new benchmark and model for our communities. 

Here on the Central Coast, we have established our backbone organisation, Barang, which means 'tomorrow' in the Darkinjung language. Our vision is ‘empowering Aboriginal people through a unified voice’.

Shane Phillips

Inner Sydney

I was born and raised on The Block. After the death of a teenager at the hands of the police in the Redfern riots in 2004, I wanted change. I became heavily involved in my community and wanted more for my people.

Through my work at the Tribal Warrior Association, I have seen the Redfern Aboriginal community make so much progress. Through Empowered Communities, however, I believe that by forming an alliance with LaPa and coming together as the Inner Sydney region, we have the ability to change even more lives. I believe in the strength of our communities and the importance of being involved in my community. I am a life member of the Redfern All Blacks Rugby League Club and coordinator of the monthly Family Day on The Block.