KATHY Butler has been creating "firsts" as an Indigenous academic and leader for years.
The trailblazing efforts of Dr Butler, Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle's Wollotuka Institute, were recognised on Friday when she was named Diversity Champion at the Hunter Diversity Awards, launched at the International Women's Day breakfast in Newcastle.
Supremely honoured, Dr Butler nonetheless believes the advancement of Indigenous causes will be best measured when there is no need for recognition.
"We are still in the position of seeing someone who is the first Indigenous person to do 'x' and I think we will have really come somewhere significant when we are no longer getting those firsts - because it's just a matter of everyday practice that Indigenous Australians are included," she said.
Dr Butler said the creation of the awards was important for people promoting equity.
"One of the things that happens for those trying to make a change is there is a sense that sometimes you are on your own and things aren't changing," she said.
"Events like this [breakfast] allow you to get a glimpse of things you don't even know about, change and innovations, and that's something that gives people a real boost to continue what they are doing."
The awards were created by the Equal Futures Project, a local group of business leaders seeking to raise awareness and funds to facilitate gender equity in the region. Newcastle law firm McCullough Robertson won the Inclusive Workplace category; the Greater Building Society won the Workplace Flexibility Champion Organisation category; and rail freight company Aurizon won the Gender Equity Champion.
Awards chairwoman Belinda Smith said the awards had showcased an impressive group of individuals and companies who were "walking the talk" when it came to equity and diversity.
The breakfast was sponsored by Pacific National, while the awards were also supported by the University of Newcastle, The Sista Code, Hunter Regional Chamber Alliance Partners, Sparke Helmore, ARTC and The Herald.
Dr Butler said education was key to boosting equity and said she and her husband had encouraged their three children, aged between 8 and 15, to be public speakers and hold their ground.
"As a parent if you don't want your kids to be stronger than you are then I don't know why you are a parent," she said.
Dr Butler praised her employer and mentors.
"When I started doing indigenisation in the university I was like this level B Aboriginal woman going into faculties to talk to people who were fairly high up . . . and having the ear of those people was important because they not only told me ways I could do things but they gave me confidence."