• Yuin woman Sonja Stewart (Supplied)Source: Supplied
It's been a massive few weeks for Sonja Stewart, a proud Yuin woman from the south coast of New South Wales, who has been appointed as CEO of the NSW Law Society and the Chair of the GO Foundation.
By
Lindy Kerin

Source:
NITV News
14 Sep 2020 - 1:28 PM  UPDATED 17 Sep 2020 - 9:21 AM

Sonja Stewart attributes much of her achievements to the family support she received from early childhood.

“I was brought up in an environment of believing that I could be whatever I want to be and I get a bit emotional thinking about that," Sonja recently told NITV Online's Take it Blak podcast.

Sonja is the first woman and first Indigenous person to take up the role with the Law Society, which represents 35,000 members of the legal profession across the state.

“It feels good. And it feels like there's a responsibility to make sure I'm not the last,” she said.

“I feel a level of optimism, and I've joined an organisation that thinks really deeply and cares and spends time trying to make sure the system is right.”

Sonja has had an extensive career across State and Commonwealth Governments, including as Deputy Secretary within the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

She told Take It Blak podcast about her time working at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) with leaders she called the legends of public policy and advocacy. 

“My office was just across the way from Uncle Charlie Perkins and, Steve Gordon. I worked nationally with other Commissioners, including Aunty Christine Williams, who passed away, but these are people who fought some very hard struggles." 

New role with the GO Foundation

Sonja has also been appointed as the first Indigenous Chair of the GO Foundation, set up by Michael O’Loughlin and Adam Goodes to help improve education outcomes for Indigenous students.

"I'm really proud to be part of the Foundation, which is is broader than just the school gate and giving those pathways for our children. I just think it's fantastic," she said.

"It's about support, mentoring, and it's about access to opportunity. So I'm really, really proud of that.”

The Foundation has so far provided 532 scholarships to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Applications for the next round are open to October 22. 

Getting back on Country

Taking on such high profile roles, Sonja told Take it Blak podcast that she's hoping she'll still get to visit the south coast with her four children.

Her grandmother was from Wreck Bay, while her grandfather was from Wallaga Lake.

“I try to get on Country whenever I can. It’s the best feeling ever, to get on Country.

“When I smell that saltwater, I already feel my heartbeat changes and my stress levels change and I always try to jump in the water. It gets a bit cold down there, but I love jumping in that saltwater, taking my shoes off, putting my feet on country and looking up at those stars, and thinking that’s what generations of my people have looked at," she said.

"It’s the best feeling in the world and I want to be there more and more the older I get, to be truthful."

Take It Blak podcast - EPISODE 17 Sonja Stewart

It's been a massive few weeks for Sonja Stewart, a proud Yuin woman from the south coast of New South Wales, who has been appointed as CEO of the NSW Law Society and the Chair of the GO Foundation. Sonja speaks with Take It Blak podcast host John Paul Janke about getting on Country, the positivity of kinship, education, the early Indigenous Rights movement, the bureaucratisation of Indigenous affairs, Indigenous Achievement and more.