Aboriginal community liaison officer Sonia Sharpe has been named the Cessnock Electorate's Local Woman of the Year.
The award is presented as part of the NSW Women of the Year awards, which recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution made by women to industry, communities and society across the state.
Ms Sharpe said helping kids and families is the reason behind everything she does - from promoting Aboriginal education and culture in local schools, to organising a community walk against domestic violence.
In her role as Aboriginal community liaison officer for the Department of Education, Ms Sharpe works as a conduit between schools, parents, the community and organisations to best help children to achieve educational goals.
Since 2007 she has been president of the Korreil Wonnai Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG), a volunteer organisation that works to promote an understanding of Aboriginal culture and education programs in the Cessnock and Kurri Kurri area.
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After recognising a lack of Aboriginal student voice within primary schools, Ms Sharpe established the concept of Aboriginal Education Teams (AETs) in Cessnock's local schools - a first in NSW. This program has now been adopted across the state, with Junior AECGs now running in primary schools as well as high schools.
Ms Sharpe also partnered with Hunter New England Health dietitian Carmen Burgess to establish the Deadly Cooking for Kids program, which teaches students healthy cooking using traditional ingredients where possible.
In 2019, Ms Sharpe was chair of Cessnock Walks Kawuma, a peaceful walk to raise awareness of the impact of domestic and family violence in the local community. The walk on November 20 was attended by more than 600 people, including many local school students.
The NSW Women of the Year awards were presented at the ICC Sydney on Thursday, with local winners announced from each electorate, and cancer researcher Professor Maria Kavallaris named the overall winner.
Heddon Greta resident Julia Weber was a finalist for the Young Woman of the Year award, which was won by Hannah Beder.
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said it was a privilege to recognise Ms Sharpe's hard work and success.
"Sonia's drive to help all people across the community is inspiring," Mr Barr said.
"She is truly a remarkable woman who is an inspiration to not only Aboriginal women in our community, but to all women."
Ms Sharpe said she was humbled to receive the award.
"I don't go out doing these things to get recognition - I just do it to help kids and families," she said.
"It's very unexpected."
A mother-of-three and grandmother-of-two, Ms Sharpe - who turns 52 this month - is also an avid sportsperson.
She plays and coaches hockey and softball, and this summer played alongside her daughter Montanna in the inaugural Newcastle District Cricket Association women's T20 competition.
True to form, Ms Sharpe will spend International Women's Day at the women's T20 World Cup final in Melbourne.