Melissa Saunders

As a young Australian Aboriginal woman of the Gunggari people I have always wanted to follow a life path where I was able to make a difference to the lives of people.

I started this journey as an undergraduate at university where I majored in Psychology and Indigenous Studies. After completing university I entered the field of human resources. After seven years in human resources I wanted to pursue other opportunities to work with people and make a real difference.

In 2009 I successfully completed a Diploma of Human Rights and Advocacy at the University of New South Wales. At this course I focused more on Australian Indigenous issues and the utilisation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to strengthen arguments and interventions.

This program led to my successful appointment as an Oxfam's Australia's youth delegate to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII) held in New York. The UNFPII is an advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council with a mandate to discuss Indigenous issues from all over the world related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

Following on from this opportunity, I was invited to become an interim steering committee member for the Indigenous Human Rights Network Australia (IHRNA) by the then Social Justice Commissioner. Two years on I still continue to play an active role in this network as a steering committee member.

The experience at the United Nations Permanent Forum heavily influenced my decision to move away from home and undertake my Masters in Human Rights Law at Monash University in Melbourne.

While completing my tertiary studies I have continued to develop in my professional career across Indigenous issues and social affairs. I am currently working in the family violence sector.

Throughout my personal and professional life I present a genuine commitment to human rights and dignity for all people. I have a personal commitment to improve the lives of others, always acting in a respectful, diplomatic and collaborative manner.