May Rosas
Empowering young women and men to grow
May Rosas, better known to her family as Diganbal, has dedicated over 40 years advocating for first nations people and the wider Katherine Community, promoting, maintaining, and preserving her local language and culture. Within the Red Cross she has used her knowledge to work with the elderly as well as with young men and women, sharing her knowledge about culture and country to empower her people and sustain the culture for future generations.
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May Rosas

May joined Red Cross as a Senior Cultural Governance Partner in 2019 working as part of Red Cross commitment to place community-based development that is authentically community led. In this role May is transforming the mechanisms of cultural governance for authentic Aboriginal decision making in the region. She also provides cultural guidance to young Aboriginal leaders of the future.

Her cultural authority and her expertise are influential in the continuous learning and improvement for Red Cross work in Katherine and the Northern Territory, Australia. She is outspoken about understanding and committing to true partnership with Aboriginal people and encourages accountability and critical reflection to enhance Red Cross community development practice.

May have worked with public health for Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service for over 30 years where has held different positions including Deputy Director and CEO. Among her current community responsibilities is the role as Chair of Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service, Chair of Mimi Arts in Katherine as well as a member of the Board of the Dodinymayin Art Centre.

Today, in addition to providing cultural training and carrying out extensive day to day cultural responsibilities, May supports Kalano Flexible Aged Care residents, a centre run by the Red Cross, by providing interpreting, bush tucker and cultural practices to enhance the comfort and experience of Aboriginal residents.

For May, working within the Red Cross has been transformative, as she for the first time has been supported to meaningfully lead First Nations people in her community to build a stronger foundation in the areas of governance, education and health. She has been able to conduct her work in ways that has been respectful to family, country and culture.

As a recognised Senior Elder, Teacher, Custodian and a Traditional Owner of Country and keeper of many Wardaman/Dagoman traditions she has in recent years prioritised sharing her knowledge of local culture and practices. Passing on her skills to preserve one of the oldest cultures in the world within her clan, country and community is therefore important to her.

“It is important that young people learn to understand the country, it’s resources and richness and that they are empowered to preserve, promote and to enjoy it”

– May Rosas, Australia

May has been influential in helping young women from the local communities to increase their cultural knowledge to and experience traditional ways. She has helped young women gain a deeper understanding of local indigenous ways of being and relating, cultural values and the importance of adhering to their cultural responsibilities and practices. This empowers them to gain respect in their own family and to grow when it comes to values and culture which in turn enables them to succeed in other areas of life.

May was also influential in empowering local young indigenous men to learn their cultural dance and perform it for the wider community. She stresses that it is important for senior women to ensure that young men are also supported, recognised and respected.

May is also a strong advocate in the area of justice and is a Director on the Board of North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, and the Chair of the Northern Territory Elders Visiting Program with NT Corrections. Her goal is to bring about positive change and to address systemic issues and recidivism. She works with prisoners, victims and families as well as the wider community. She believes that justice involves enabling people to maintain integrity and connection to both country and the elements and that this needs to become rooted in the lives of Aboriginal people.

Through mentoring, training and local skill-based knowledge May is able to bring about increased awareness and greater understanding and respect for local Aboriginal culture in the wider community by truly walking side by side on a National and International scale. Her work within Red Cross is enriching the lives of volunteers, migrants and many visitors to the community of Katherine Northern Territory.

May’s dream is to fulfil her legacy and to pass on her knowledge of culture and country that gives life to family and community.

May Rosas

Australia, 2019

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When women are included, peace negotiations are 35% more likely to succeed.

– Council of Foreign Relations (CFR)

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