• June Riemer, NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Gumbaynggirr Dunghutti woman and disability advocate June Riemer says she's humbled to be named NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year.
Rachael Hocking

11 Mar 2021 - 12:46 PM  UPDATED 11 Mar 2021 - 3:41 PM

Gumbaynggirr Dunghutti woman June Riemer was named the NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year on Thursday, acknowledging 40 years of advocacy for First Nations People and people living with disability.

Ms Riemer, who is the deputy CEO of the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN), told NITV News she was humbled by the recognition, and hoped it would give more of a voice to those who are marginalised.

"I was amazed at first, because I thought there was a strong contention of people there... but humbled and happy at the same time," she said.

"I think it's really good for [people with] disability to have a voice, and if I can do that then that's great."

Ms Riemer has worked across the community service sector for decades, leaving school for nursing before moving to therapy centres and home-care, where she developed a passion for helping those with disability.

She has taken her advocacy to the United Nations and international forums in the Pacific, as well as leading national campaigns for better, culturally appropriate access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

"I think as Aboriginal people we naturally grow up caring and supporting you know within our own families," she said.

"We've always looked after our own so I think that's just who I am and I've always been, you know, a fighter for the underdog."

FPDN have been working with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, which held its first all-Indigenous hearing in November last year.

Ms Riemer said the sector has a long way to go to ensure the rights of First Nations people living with disability.

"There needs to be a real shift in the sector across the aging and disability elements to be more inclusive, be more accessible, particularly those in rural and remote regions, you know, their conversation and therefore voice is generally not heard," she said.

"The lack of appropriate housing for children in particular, the lack of accessible education to live their dream and pursue their goals to be who they want."

"The sector needs a real shake up to understand that, you know, there's human rights violations."

She said she hopes her award inspires people living with disability to "know their rights".

"Live your dream and pursue your goals... it is a journey and we all have a place and you have a right to access whatever education or facilities or environment that you want," she said. 

"Don't be afraid and never give up."

The accolade was presented as one of six at the annual NSW Women of the Year Awards in Sydney, including Community Hero, Regional Woman, Young Woman and The One to Watch, with NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant taking home the Woman of Excellence.

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