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Women in leadership making a difference for First Nations people

16 November 2021

Cape York Blog Size Audrey

Cape York Partnership First Nations leader prioritises female empowerment and financial freedom to make a difference.

Australia has a long history of government intervention in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, limiting the independence, leadership, and responsibility of these communities.

In recent years, there has been an effort to return those rights and responsibilities to individuals, families, and communities. 

Striving to break the cycle of financial disadvantage is one area and Cape York Partnership, a non-profit organisation that works to empower First Nations families and communities to strive for lives of value and prosperity, is proving the benefits of this shift away from government to grass roots control. 

The organisation has developed multiple initiatives, businesses, services, and schools, and has been instrumental in empowering the Indigenous communities of Cape York and Cairns.

CYP has created dedicated O-Hubs — purpose-built community centres and safe spaces where people are given the support and resources they need to be responsible for their finances, health, and children’s educational costs.

O-Hub has developed a range of products, including apps, platforms, and accounts that help build and support financial literacy.  

One inspiring female leader helping to drive these initiatives is Audrey Deemal, the General Manager at Cape Operations.

We discovered more about the initiatives, the challenges faced by Indigenous communities, as well as Audrey’s passion for empowering women. 

RUBY: Hi Audrey, can you let us know a little bit about yourself and your role within Cape York Partnership?

I’m originally from Hopevale, now based in Cairns. I’m the General Manager of Cape Operations, and responsible for all the Opportunity Hubs in Aurukun, Coen, Hopevale and Mossman Gorge and all the Opportunity Programs, which include Mpower (Financial Capability Program, Student Education Trust, Wise Buys, Homelands, Mayi Market, and the Pama Platform).

RUBY: What challenges did you face getting to this role?

The biggest challenge I faced was my own self-belief and confidence in my ability to manage the teams and programs - second guessing myself and my decisions.

RUBY: What is O-Hub and how does it empower women in the community?

O-Hubs (Opportunity Hubs) empower women to take responsibility for their lives, their happiness, and their families. Through learning and understanding financial literacy and budgeting techniques O-Hub helps them better plan their finances.

The programs include understanding what a budget is and how it works; understanding wants and needs, banking support, budgeting and payment support, and debt reduction.

RUBY: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the community through the work of O-Hub?

Many of us take it for granted that we have washing machines, fridges, beds, furniture. Some of our clients have never had that opportunity. Now they can save and build their assets.

Our clients live remotely and pay for freight on top of what they purchase, and this can be an obstacle to purchasing. We’ve seen a lot of fraud issues popping up with door-to-door sales - sales agents taking advantage of our most vulnerable people. However, we’ve built a pretty good relationship with Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which is helpful when dealing with such issues.

RUBY: What does the future hold for O-Hub? Is there anything exciting you’re currently working on?

O-Hub will continue to grow as Social Capital Hubs and be available to other communities throughout the Cape York region and other regions in Queensland and nationally. We have also been co-designing Pama Platform, a web-based app that will provide a digital space for all our Opportunity products.

People anywhere in the Cape and beyond will be able to save for their children’s education, open a personal savings account, save for a house deposit, build a resume and apply for jobs, and keep up to date with community events.

RUBY: What would happen without the O-Hub?

O-Hub provides a lot of support other than just financial support. The O-Hub is seen by our communities as the one stop shop for help, whether it’s to sort out personal financial capabilities or to get some assistance with housing, letters, online banking, education options for their children – to name a few.

RUBY: What advice do you have for young women wanting a career?

My advice is to follow your dreams, and to keep moving forward regardless of the obstacles placed in front of you. Believe in yourself and your abilities to reach your goals. It took me a while to do that, and it took a lot of work.

Sometimes, I get a chance to reflect on my journey and I’m surprised at how far I’ve come. Celebrate the small wins too, not just the big ones.

Surround yourself with strong wise women who will support you and provide some wise advice. You are responsible for your own happiness, so do what makes you happy.

RUBY: What do you hope to achieve in your role?

I hope that my journey and work will help other young women to face their challenges and push themselves out of their comfort zones and reach for the stars for themselves and their families.