Aunty Kathy Donnelly, a proud Uralaroi woman from the Kamilaroi Nation in Far West NSW, has devoted her life to advocating for her people. A passionate supporter of reconciliation and social justice, Aunty Kathy, a wife, mother, and grandmother residing on Darug country (Penrith), extends her advocacy for workplace equality throughout all Nations in NSW via open dialogue, emphasising the significance of yarning – talking and listening.
At Wesley Mission, Aunty Kathy spearheads the Reconciliation Action Plan process. When addressing achieving workplace equality, she emphasises the transformative power of yarning, stating, “I’m determined to change people’s thinking and the way they judge us, and it starts with yarning – talking and listening.”
Kathy has worked in diverse settings, collaborating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples and other Australians for Reconciliation. Notable roles include Corrective Services, aiding inmates pre and post release; Link Up NSW, reconnecting clients in custody with their families; and addressing the well- being of Aboriginal women in Custody. At Anglicare, Kathy served as the Aboriginal Liaison Officer,fostering reconciliation through Cultural Awareness training, breaking down barriers, and Co-Chairing the Anglicare RAP.
Raised as a twin and the eldest of seven on the banks of the Barwon River, Aunty Kathy draws strength from her mother’s remarkable resilience. Growing up in a tin humpy, she only learned about her mother’s hardships after her passing in 2019. Removed from her family at eight, Aunty Kathy’s mother faced forced labour during the day and slept on a police cell floor at night. Despite these challenges, she exhibited unwavering strength, working five jobs to provide her seven children with the best start in life.
Aunty Kathy’s mother, guided by a deep Christian faith, found solace and strength in her beliefs, which became the cornerstone of her resilience. Aunty Kathy sees her as a tall, proud role model,and she carries her mother’ s influence with pride.
A workplace where everyone at Wesley Mission can stand tall, express their identity, and take pride in who they are is Aunty Kathy’s vision. In her role as Wesley Mission’s Reconciliation Action Lead, she strives to implement the organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and ensuring they don’t face challenges alone. She is committed to putting that plan into action – where everyone can build relationships and walk alongside Indigenous communities, so they don’t have to do it alone.
A recent highlight in Aunty Kathy’s journey was receiving the Elders Award for Reconciliation and Social Justice at the 2023 Narang Bir-rong Aboriginal Corporation NAIDOC Ball. Presented by journalist and Wiradjuri man Stan Grant, the award acknowledged Aunty Kathy’s reconciliation work in Western Sydney as a leader, mentor, and advocate. Humble in her receipt,Aunty Kathy expressed gratitude for the support received and stressed the need to mentor young Aboriginal individuals for positive change.
Her work at Wesley Mission focuses on education, storytelling, and collaboration for reconciliation.Aunty Kathy advocates ongoing education and leading by example to counteract negative stereotypes fostering a workplace where everyone, regardless of their background, can take pride in their identity.
As Aunty Kathy continues her journey with Wesley Mission, she remains committed to embedding reconciliation in every aspect of the organisation. Her story is one of strength, resilience, and a deep-rooted passion for positive change.