She has been described as a passionate and fierce advocate but after nearly 19 years in the role, the CEO of the Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation will be retiring.
Dana Clarke has worked in Aboriginal health, domestic violence prevention, sexual assault and mental health for over 30 years with over half of that time spent at the Kempsey born corporation.
The proud Biripi and Worimi woman has decided that this year, it was time to retire from the corporation.
"It's been a blink," Ms Clarke said about her nearly two decades in the role.
""When I made the decision to retire, it was funny.
"I'm 68-years-old so I've got to have a bit of a life."
Ms Clarke had been associated with Burrun Dalai since 1997 when the 'Bring Them Home' Report was published.
She had worked in Aboriginal mental health, child protection and child sexual assaults before being asked by staff to apply for the role of coordinator at the corporation.
She was successful in her application and has stayed on ever since.
When Ms Clarke first joined the corporation, it had four employees with one child in care.
Burrun Dalai now operates with approximately 120 staff, with six offices covering 52,000 square kilometres.
Ms Clarke said this growth was something she championed as CEO but nothing is achieved in isolation.
"I have worked with the most amazing people," she said.
"My belief is that we all have a role and without everyone doing what they're there to do, nothing happens."
Burrun Dalai is an Aborginal community-controlled organisation (ACCO) that offers out of home and family support to Aboriginal children and young people as well as their birth families, foster families and communities.
One of the main goals for the not-for-profit is to work towards keeping children in their families and communities on coutnry with out-of-home care only a last resort.
As an Aboriginal woman who has worked in the child protection sector for a number of years, its a topic that Ms Clarke is passionate about.
"There's not an Aborignal family in Australia that hasn't been touched by the stolen generation," she said.
"And my family has been touched just the same as anyone else's."
But one of the elements that stood out to Ms Clarke was that a majority of the people she was working for came from a trauma background.
Whether they had been removed from home, placed into care or institutionalised, the stories rarely changed.
"How do you be a parent if you've never been taught to parent," she said.
"If you've been removed and traumatised yourself, how do you be a parent but the first thing you want to be is to be a parent because you don't have any family of your own?"
Ms Clarke said she would love for there not to be a need for the out of home care business and for no children to be in care.
But the statistics are daunting.
"Currently in NSW 53 per cent of all kids in care are Aboriginal kids and we're only 3.5 percent of the population," Ms Clarke said.
"So to me, there is something very broken in the system that needs to be rectified,
"And until we start doing that work and... we start investing heavily in the front end, things are not going to change."
Close family upbringing
Ms Clarke grew up in Sydney with a Scottish Mum and a Biripi and Worimi father but spent a lot of time in the Mid North Coast area.
Her father, Roger Cyron would share with her stories of his upbringing such as visiting the cinema with his Nanna in a roped off area and entering after the lights were turned off.
When Ms Clarke asked him what he thought about that, he said he didn't care because he was with his Nanna.
"That to me pays tribute to the resilience of our people," Ms Clarke said.
"Dad was just Dad...one of the smartest men I had ever known."
Mr Cyron couldn't read or write but his daughter went on to be the long serving CEO for one of the largest rural ACCOs in NSW while his granddaughter became a doctor.
"And that's because of him," Ms Clarke said.
"It's because of the shoulders we've stood on before that we are where we are and we can never forget that.
"We can never forget what's led us to where we are and whose paid the price for where we are."
An accomplished career
In her time at Burrun Dalai, Ms Clarke has seen the corporation expand to help more children in need.
The corporation has set up programs including the Barrunbatayi Dilpaati Futures Planning and Support program which provides support to young people leaving the foster system.
But Ms Clarke has had a number of achievements outside of the corporation.
Since 2005 she has been a board member at AbSec, the NSW Child, Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation.
"I've been blessed to be able to speak as a chair for them and advocate very strongly," she said.
"I probably will remain on the AbSec board as an independent for a while [after retiring]"
Ms Clarke was also named the 2016 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year for her advocacy and work.
Her long list of accomplishments were celebrated at Ms Clarke's retirement party at Port Macquarie Sails on November 4.
The evening was attended by friends, family, colleagues and NSW Minister for Families and Communities Kate Washington.
As the new CEO is selected, Ms Clarke said that even though she is retiring from Burrun Dalai, she still plans to do some work in the sector.
"I don't know how I'll go retiring because I've worked for so long," she said.
"But more than that, I think, there is some passion I have about doing certain projects."
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