The days following 30 November 2019 were nail-biting ones.
Land Rights members had turned out across NSW to vote in the NSW Aboriginal Land Council elections, which would decide who would make up Council for the following four years.
Anne Dennis was one of the incumbent Councillors vying for re-election.
She was the NSWALC Acting Chair, had been Deputy Chair for the previous four years and was committed to continuing her work in land rights.
By 6 December, the NSW Electoral Commission had finalised the results and declared the election.
Anne was one of three incumbent Councillors returned, with five new faces joining the nine-person Council.
And two of those new faces were women, a result that Councillor Dennis says was very refreshing.
“This is the first time that we’ve had three women on Council. Of course, it started with Bev Manton, who was the first female NSWALC Chair. Tina Williams served with me for two terms, and I’m very pleased now to see that with new Councillors Grace Toomey and Leanne Hampton on board, our contributions are increasing across the network.”
Those contributions are many and aren’t limited to seats on boards either.
In fact, around half the Land Rights formal leadership roles in NSW are filled by women.
They’re CEOs of Local Aboriginal Land Councils, Deputy CEOs, Chairs, Deputy Chairs and Board members.
Anne Dennis is Councillor of the North West Region of NSW, where more than half of all CEO’s and Board office-bearers are women, and more than 80 per-cent of the LALC Chairs are women.
Councillor Dennis says that Aboriginal women leaders are integral to communities being able to grow culturally, economically and socially.
“Aboriginal women provide a balance in life and work and we’re able to juggle busy days, people and multiple projects, while remaining a strong influence in our family structures.
“We really do play an important role in our communities. We continue to have major responsibilities around family, and our community is an extension of family,” she said.
The right to opportunity and equality is something Anne Dennis has been passionate about for decades.
“The Land Rights network is another structure that women have always excelled in. And women know that land rights provides support and opportunities for men, women and children alike. But we have to step up and take those opportunities, do the work, and strengthen our communities.”
So, what does Anne Dennis think of the 2020 International Women’s day theme “I am Generation Equality. Realising Women’s Rights”?
“The most important thing for any woman in any community is the right to an education. Education builds personal capacity, which increases community capacity. It’s very important that we all encourage and actively support the girls who dream of being a scientist, an engineer or a CEO,” she said.
“Women must have a voice. We do have a voice. So, let’s strengthen each other and bring our communities with us on the journey.
“And for all the women who organise community events, who teach our children, who make difficult decisions and lead our organisations, you have a right to take your place in society. You are the women we should hold in high regard not only on International Women’s Day, but every day”.