Aunty Dr Naomi Mayers OAM
Aunty Dr Naomi Mayers OAM, is a proud Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri woman, born in 1941 on Erambie Mission, just outside of Cowra in country New South Wales. Aunty Dr Naomi has dedicated her life to the advancement of Indigenous health and is a leader in Aboriginal affairs.
Aunty Dr Naomi has developed and led some of the most enduring and fundamentally profound reforms in Aboriginal and Torres Strait health, both in terms of community-controlled services and the broader Australian health system.
At the age of 18, Aunty Naomi began her work in health as a nurse, working at the Royal Women’s Hospital and Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, the Home Hill Hospital in Queensland and St Andrews Hospital in East Melbourne. She was also a board member of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
In addition to her contributions to healthcare and education, Aunty Dr Naomi was also a founding member of The Sapphires, the ground-breaking all-Aboriginal music group from country Victoria that gained international recognition for their soulful harmonies and powerful performances. The group performed defiantly at a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and issues were both ignored or not spoken about.
Aunty Dr Naomi was one of the founders and a pioneering force in establishing the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern (AMS) in 1971. The AMS Redfern was the first Aboriginal medical service and has since become a service model for community controlled health services that underpins the principles of self-determination. The service provides culturally appropriate healthcare to Indigenous people and has been instrumental in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.
Aunty Dr Naomi dedicated 45 years to the Redfern AMS and service to the community. She started out as an Administrator, and in 2012 went on to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) before her retirement in 2017. Throughout her career at the AMS, Aunty Dr Naomi guided the transformation of the AMS from a small shop-front into a national network of services.
Aunty Dr Naomi has been one of the principal figures behind a number of Redfern's community development projects, including those which established the Murawina pre-school program in 1973 and the Aboriginal Housing Company in 1976.
Aunty Dr Naomi is a founding member of the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW, the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (NAIHO) (now the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation), was founding president of the Federation for Aboriginal Women and a member of the first ATSIC Regional Council for Metropolitan Sydney.
As an authority on Aboriginal health issues, she proved an influential witness during the inquiries of the 1977 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Health. In 1981 she was appointed as a consultant by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists.
In 1984, Aunty Dr Naomi was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition of her services to the community.
As Chair of the National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party in 1988-9, Aunty Dr Naomi worked with state and community representatives to develop the National Aboriginal Health Strategy. Under her leadership, that pivotal report introduced innovative Aboriginal health sector reforms that continue to shape the nature, range and delivery of health services to this day.
In 2017, Aunty Naomi was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) from the University of Sydney for her work delivering and transforming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care. At this time, Aunty Dr Naomi already held a doctorate in Aboriginal Affairs from Tranby Aboriginal College in Sydney.
Aunty Dr Naomi has dedicated her life to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advancement, health, education and policy. She has guided, advocated, argued for and supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the nation to build a healthier future.
It is our privilege to honour Aunty Dr Naomi with the 2023 National NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding services and contributions to our peoples.