Elsie Heiss, or Aunty Elsie, is a mother of five and grandmother of six living in Sydney. While Aunty Elsie would not define herself as a leader, many follow the wisdom and direction she offers.
Aunty Elsie has worked as a coordinator of the Aboriginal Catholic Church Ministries for the past 20 years. She has built bridges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities through hundreds of speeches on such topics as Aboriginal spirituality, the Stolen Generations, Reconciliation and justice.
Aunty Elsie’s status in community has been recognised locally and internationally. In 1995, she participated in the official smoking ceremony for Pope John Paul the Second; and in 1998, Aunty Elsie was the only Aboriginal representative at the Synod of Oceania in Rome.
As Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, Aunty Elsie played a major role in representing the Aboriginal community during World Youth Day in 2008. She welcomed Pope Benedict the sixteenth and introduced an Indigenous message stick that accompanied the cross on a journey around the country.
Aunty Elsie’s passion is educating the wider Australian community in understanding Aboriginal people, culture and history. Her knowledge and experience has seen her appointed to many boards and committees including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Ecumenical council of NSW and Catholic Earth care Australia.
Aunty Elsie’s goal is to mentor a younger person into her high profile positions, particularly her role with the Aboriginal Catholic Church Ministries. Having said this, she has no intention of stopping.
In the future, Aunty Elsie aims to work more with non-Catholic organisations, giving her the chance to bring Indigenous issues to the table to a wider audience and enlighten those she works with along the way.