• Andrea Mason at the Australian Of The Year Awards 2017 Northern Territory. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Indigenous leader and business woman Andrea Mason is the Northern Territory’s finalist for the top gong this Australia Day.
NITV Staff Writer, Lucy Hughes Jones

25 Jan 2017 - 11:06 AM  UPDATED 25 Jan 2017 - 11:08 AM

Andrea Mason’s work is complex, far-reaching and hands-on. She is the chief executive of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council and leads the world-renown Tjanpi Desert Weavers.

Ms Mason, the first Indigenous Australian woman to head a political party with the Family First Party in 2004, says the NPY Women's Council helps around 2,000 people from the tri-state region of the NT, Western Australia and South Australia, which stretches some 350,000 square kilometers.

But the 2017 Australian of the Year nominee says it is the Indigenous women scattered across the region that make it feel much smaller.

"They know the country, the language, the relationships," Ms Mason told AAP.

"Whatever happens next on this journey, I know that I absolutely have their support right behind me, their encouragement and guidance."

FactCheck Q&A: are Indigenous women 34-80 times more likely than average to experience violence?
Prominent Indigenous academic Marcia Langton told Q&A that violence against Indigenous women ranged from between 34 times the national figures to up to 80 times in the worst areas, saying funding was needed for services “to stop the violence”. Is that correct?

Statistics say Aboriginal women are at higher risk than non-indigenous women to be hospitalised because of family violence, and Ms Mason has been instrumental in creating awareness in some of Australia's most remote communities.

The NPY Women's Council focus on victim support, men's behavioural programs and advocacy for systemic change within government and the justice system, has proven to be a successful model. 

"We work behind closed doors with families to prevent ongoing trauma and hopelessness," Ms Mason says.

The organisation also drives social change for Indigenous women, empowering them through employment opportunities and supporting health.

Ms Mason, who was correspondingly lauded as the 2016 Australian Businesswoman of the Year, is also known for integrating her corporate acumen into traditional cultural practices through innovative social enterprises.

She leads the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, a business founded in 1995, which enables women to generate their own income through weaving fibre art.

"Tjanpi is the Aboriginal language word for grass. We have over 400 artists creating baskets and sculptures inspired by ancient stories and song lines," she said.

"It makes it multidimensional, tangible and so visually exciting."

The Tjanpi Desert Weavers represented Australia in the 2015 Venice Art Biennale, together with artist Fiona Hall.

From desert to coast: Aboriginal art from remote Australia to captivate the mainstream
‘Nganampa Kililpil: Our Stars’ is the first major collaborative art exhibition from the APY Lands to be displayed in Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, showcasing 50 works by 50 artists.