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Australia's peak social workers' association announces first Torres Strait Island board director

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) has announced the appointment of Muriel Wymarra, a Torres Strait Islander woman born and raised in Gimuy (Cairns) as an Ordinary Director of the Association.

The announcement means three of the board positions hail from Aboriginal backgrounds whilst Ms Wymarra becomes the first member to represent the Torres Strait Islander community.

In a statement, the AASW said the appointment of Ms Wymarra "further diversifies the Board" as well as highlighting its commitment to "inclusivity and representation within the profession".

"Muriel…will bring a wealth of experience and cultural insight to her role, amplifying the diverse voices within Australia's First Nation cultures," the statement read.

Possessing extensive experience in both the government and in the not-for-profit sector, Ms Wymarra is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy at Central Queensland University with research focussing on professional help in Torres Strait Island culture.

She previously worked as the National Indigenous Social Work Group (NISWG) chairperson for Services Australia, provided counselling support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and been involved in departmental policies in remote Aboriginal communities.

"This is an exciting opportunity for a Torres Strait Islander social work practitioner to represent and amplify the rich diversity of Australia's culture," Ms Wymarra said.

Recently appointed National President of AASW, Bigambul woman Linda Ford, said the appointment was a long-awaited achievement of representing both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"Muriel's extensive experience, particularly in advocating for the social health and well-being of Torres Strait Islander people, aligns perfectly with our commitment to cultural integrity and professional responsibility," Ms. Ford said.

Ms Ford said Ms Wymarra's extensive history showed a commitment to "addressing the unique needs of Torres Strait Islander communities".

"Her wealth of experience and dedication to advocating for the Torres Strait Islander community aligns seamlessly with our inclusivity and cultural integrity mission," Ms Ford said.

"Muriel's achievements, from her advocacy in government administration to her current role as a doctoral candidate, demonstrate her commitment to social work and cultural integrity. We are confident that her leadership will contribute significantly to the AASW's goals."

She noted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are often jointly identified, without acknowledging their "unique" differences.

"The AASW Board has recognised that we must value and promote both First Nations," Ms Ford said.

Taken from the National Indigenous Times Media Release on February 2, 2024

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