"To receive such a prestigious award and acknowledgement from my local community is a lot."
It's about teaching our girls that they can do anythingTara Dever
These are the words of the this year's Local Woman of the Year, Tara Dever.
For nearly 20 years, Ms Dever has been a passionate advocate for Maitland, and the region's Indigenous population.
On Friday, the community stalwart was recognised with the Local Woman of the Year award at an International Women’s Day gala dinner.
While the Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive said she was "shocked and flattered", she was quick to acknowledge that her actions were just part of serving her community.
"I work with amazing women who do everything I do every day. We are all social workers and land managers, we do everything together, but it's about teaching our girls that they can do anything."
She says her message to young women in the community is "you can achieve anything you want".
"You don't have to be what you are in the beginning. You can change. You are allowed to grow," she said.
During a NAIDOC 2018 public address Ms Dever shared her own personal upbringing, crediting the sisterhood of nuns at the local convent, strong women in her early years and, most of all, her mother, with shaping who she became.
“As I go about my work in Maitland I am always inspired by the women in our community, and this year for me, Tara was a standout,” Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison said.
“The award is well-deserved recognition for the enormous contribution Tara has already made, and of her ongoing commitment to our local community.
“Her public tribute to strong and inspirational women was particularly apt, considering 2018 NAIDOC was themed ‘Because of Her, We Can’,” Ms Aitchison added.
The Local Woman of the Year awards offer all State MPs the opportunity to recognise one woman doing outstanding work in their community.
The state-wide award is presented in conjunction with the NSW Women of the Year Awards.
During the ceremony, Ms Aitchison also paid special tribute to the six women who had won the award in previous years including Amorelle Dempster, Naomi Rees, Pennie Kearney, Yvette Cavanagh, Michelle Davies and Samantha Meyn.