Former US president Barack Obama’s special assistant on Native American Affairs met with 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from around Australia on Tuesday to encourage them to use their voices as leaders.

Karen Diver was in Australia for Oxfam Australia’s Straight Talk National Summit which runs in Canberra until Thursday (November 29).

“I think a part of it is understanding as women, increased policy making, increased participation in leadership activities, is already something they are equipped to do,” Ms Diver said.

“Women are naturally caregivers of family and it’s just taking that advocacy you would have for your own family and extended family and being that voice at a different level. To tell their story.”

“There’s nothing really special about folks who take that increased responsibility on a larger sphere.”

“Those tools are already inside of them. Mostly, it is just encouraging them that their voice is necessary …”

“I’m there to tell them, do what you’re doing and take some risks and try and amplify your own voice and the voices of your sisters.”

Ms Diver was the tribal leader of the Fond du Lac in Minnesota for nine years and served as Specialist Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs from November 2015 to the end of the Obama administration in 2017.

She is currently the Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence for Native American Affairs at the College of St Scholastica in Minnesota.

Women attending the summit were also scheduled to meet or hear from Australian politicians including Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Aboriginal Health Minister Ken Wyatt and Labor Senator and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.

Gabrielle Hill, a 50-year-old Darwin resident and law student at Charles Darwin University, said taking part in the summit was about continuing to raise her voice and the voices of other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

By Wendy Caccetta