Aunty Lindy Lawler is proof there is life and hope after tragedy.
After losing her twin sister, Mandy Courtney, to cancer three years ago, Aunty Lindy's world became dark.
Even her passion for art fell by the wayside.
But the Barrack Heights woman has found a new strength in her extensive community work.
In a proud moment for the mother of two, Aunty Lindy was named the region's female Aboriginal elder of the year at the 2012 Local Government Regional NAIDOC Awards on Saturday.
"It was so unexpected, I could hardly speak," she said.
"I do it for my twin sister, I do this for her and for my kids and for my two grandsons as well."
Aunty Lindy works tirelessly with a number of community groups, including the Illawarra Women's Health Centre (IWHC), the United Koori Social Club, Wollongong Cultural Centre and Aunty Jean's Group.
A member of the Stolen Generation, Aunty Lindy has overcome deep emotional hardship and loss to become an example of strength and determination.
"My foster mum has encouraged me to never give up; if it wasn't for my foster mum my twin and I wouldn't have been here," she said.
Aunty Lindy is passionate about creating closer bonds between the indigenous and wider community and promoting healing.
By working with the IWHC she hopes to encourage other indigenous women to seek medical guidance when in need.
"I love everything I do with people and I love being with people and to help them out," she said.
Since becoming involved with the organisation she has taken up her artwork again.