June Oscar has this week been named Australia’s new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, becoming the first Indigenous woman appointed to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Oscar takes the position after a long career leading and advocating for Indigenous communities, most notably in helping to fight alcohol-related issues and damage, and playing an instrumental role in initiating the country’s first major study in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
The Bunuba woman is currently chief executive of the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing, and was named one of the 50 most influential women in the world in 2011 and later awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia.
Oscar started her career as a legal secretary in Debry before beginning her work in activism, according to Fairfax papers today. She headed up a female-led campaign to push for restirctions on the sale of full-strength alcohol in response to numerous deaths from self-harm and suicide across the Fitzroy Valley. She has also called on all Australians to take an active interest in reconciliation.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he’d known Oscar for many years and admired her passion for advocacy in the area.
“Ms Oscar’s appointment demonstrates the central role Indigenous women play in bringing about social change and I look forward to working closely with her in the future.”
Attorney-General George Brandis noted Oscar’s knowledge and experience in dealing with alcohol abuse in Indigenous communities, particulary in finding ways to help “mitigate the effect of that abuse on women and children”.
Oscar replaces Mick Gooda in the role, and will begin her five year appointment in April.