Aunty Maria Starcevic

Throughout all I have survived, my sense of humour has been my lifeline. I enjoy every day of my life.

Local Champion

Aunty Maria survived a tough upbringing to become a keen advocate for Aboriginal communities and their rights over the past 30 years.

As chair of Victoria's Indigenous Family Violence Committee for four years, she says she was proud to "make decisions that would help my Kulin Nation people". Maria played a key role in the development of Victoria's Indigenous Family Violence Strategy and the Indigenous Family Violence Ten Year Plan: Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families; both outline the government's plan for tackling Indigenous family violence in Victoria.

Maria was also chair of the Family Violence Southern Metropolitan Regional Action Group, where she provided advice to community and government - at a local, regional, state and national level. In this role she provided expert cultural advice on developing Indigenous-specific responses to family violence and the annual government grants process for the Indigenous Family Violence Community Initiative Fund.

Maria's roles have also included founding the Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum working group; member of the Southern Metropolitan Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee and director of the Stolen Generations Board. It should be noted that it's not just her Kulin Nation people that Maria is passionate about. Smiling, she says that one of her proudest achievements is setting up a weekly barbecue for the 'parkies' in the City of Port Phillip. "Monday was the worst day. After the weekend, you have no smokes, you have no money, and your belly was touching your backbone.

Now, Monday's the best day for a free feed in the park. Some days, we have up to 50 people for a lovely community meal in the park. White, black, anyone that's hungry comes and has a feed there." Maria was named Citizen of the Year for City of Port Phillip for this very successful program and for her other community work over the past 15 years.