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NPY Women’s Council: Building your cultural guiding principles into your rule book
NPY Women’s Council (NPYWC) was set up in 1980 and incorporated in 1994. The organisation was founded in response to the concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands. The women were concerned about the rise of petrol sniffing in their communities. They were also concerned about the ineffectual service delivery to their Elders and those with disabilities.
“…the women were all thinking the same way. We wanted our own meetings. We all had something to say about caring for our children, our families, about our aspirations to have good lives. We wanted to talk about our issues to the government. We wanted to talk together to give a strong message. That’s why we formed the Women’s Council.”
– Nganyinytja (dec), OAM, 1980
NPYWC has never lost sight of its aspirations. It remains an active and hands-on advocacy and service delivery organisation committed to culture. One of the aspirations of NPYWC is to protect, maintain and revitalise culture. It does this by:
- encouraging the practice of culture
- observing NPY women’s law
- promoting the interests and rights of NPY women.
Anangu culture flows through the organisation from the boardroom to service delivery on the ground.
In 2008, NPYWC became incorporated under new legislation. They carried out significant consultation with members, spread across a large geographic region, about their new rule book (known as the constitution).
As a result, members introduced new clauses in the rule book. These include key guiding cultural principles such as:
- Ngapartji ngapartjiku kulira iwara wananma tjukarurungku: respect each other and follow the law straight
- Kalypangku: conciliatory
- Piluntjungku: peaceful and calm
- Kututu mukulyangku: kind-hearted
- Tjungungku: united
- Kunppungku: strong
NPYWC has also incorporated their culture into the way the organisation is run. Examples are:
Each year NPYWC holds a bush meeting. Directors and staff go out on Country and meet with the organisation’s members. Everyone is invited to come along, not just the local community where the bush meeting is being held.
These meetings are an opportunity for NPYWC staff to spend time with members out on Country and in a bush camp. Having bush meetings allows for knowledge sharing between communities and NPYWC. It means staff and directors get out from behind their desks and into the communities. Bush meetings are a culturally appropriate way to get information out to members. They’ve proven to be a great forum for building relationships between community and staff.
NPYWC has an approach known as the ‘malparara way’. It’s a cross-cultural practice framework specific to NPYWC. The idea came from Anangu women. They wanted a service delivery model that would effectively and efficiently meet the needs of the local people.
In Pitjantjatjara, ‘Malpa’ means ‘friend or colleague’ and ‘malparara’ means ‘alongside a friend or colleague’. Malparara describes a way of working where 2 staff members, one Anangu and one non-Indigenous person, partner to deliver services.1‘Ngapartji Ngapartji; Working and Learning Together Workforce Development and Capability Framework,’ Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC), published 2020, [link]
The Anangu worker brings their skills and knowledge of language, culture, history, land and family. The worker brings their expertise in the field they’re employed.
“The idea is that working Malparara allows for Anangu and non-Aboriginal cultural and professional knowledge to be combined to provide the best possible service for Anangu; one plus one equals three.”2‘Ngapartji Ngapartji; Working and Learning Together Workforce Development and Capability Framework,’ Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC), published 2020,[link]
– NPY Women’s Council Workforce Development & Capability Framework; Ngapartji Ngapartji; Working and Learning Together
The malparara way is about working in a culturally appropriate way. It recognises and values the knowledge, skills and resources of the local people. The malparara way ensures the concerns and problems of the local people are listened to and addressed. It helps them access services in a culturally appropriate and effective way. It works because service delivery can be adapted to suit the local communities’ culture, norms and values. Malparara way is very effective in ensuring quality service delivery in cross-border regions.
“Women’s Council project work is hard, really complicated. It can be difficult to understand but working with a malpa (friend) makes it much easier, and the staff are much happier when they are working together. It makes difficult things much easier to understand when you are working together.”
– Tjikalyi Colin, Former Anangu staff member
These relationships are pivotal in ensuring NPYWC is active in response to sensitive community issues such as domestic violence.
As the size and complexity of NPYWC has grown, newer ways have emerged to incorporate Anangu specialist skills and knowledge.
Existing and new roles honour the history and core values of the model. They also incorporate culturally safe practice, and the key values of working and learning together.3‘Ngapartji Ngapartji; Working and Learning Together Workforce Development and Capability Framework,’ Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC), published 2020, [link]
Decision making and service development
The NPYWC process is an example of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture can go hand in hand with good corporate governance. NPYWC’s service development approach includes:
- Kulikatinyi: considering something over a long period of time – thinking
- Nyakuakatinyi: looking for something as one goes along – and deliberating
- Palyaalkatinyi: making something as one goes along – actioning.4‘Annual Report 2015-2016,’ Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC), published 2017, [link]
This process makes sure that NPYWC services are continually reviewed and improved. It means that NPYWC services meet the needs of individuals and communities.
Kungka – NPYWC Annual Career Conference
Kungka is an annual conference held by the NPYWC for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women between 12 and 15 years of age. The conference provides young women with information and advice on education and employment pathways. Older, successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women come along to inspire and share their stories. Local women successful in their education and employment are also invited. They share their stories and speak to participants in their own language. Young women see positive examples of women strong in their culture and successful in their employment and education.
New staff members get an orientation of the organisation and the region they’re based in. They’re given detailed advice on Anangu culture and cultural differences. This includes saying no, avoidance relationships, sorry business, men’s business, women’s business and parenting ways.