Because of Her, We Can

Indigenous leaders and advocates: paving the way for young Indigenous women

Who are the women that inspire us; who do we look up to? What values do we hold and how do we let this shape our behaviour? The 2018 NAIDOC theme “Because of Her, We Can!” gives us all a chance to reflect on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in our lives that have helped create and shape us. As a young Aboriginal woman, I seek guidance and strength from many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but here are a few trailblazers I especially look up to:

Aunty Anne Martin

Aunty Anne is the director of the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre at ANU. A proud Yuin woman of the NSQ South Coast, born and raised at La Perouse in Sydney, Aunty Anne embodies the importance of community, culture, and connections. She brings a sense of family and belonging to Tjabal and ANU. She taught me to be proud of my roots, to stand tall as a young Aboriginal woman, and to never accept less than what I deserve.

Lidia Thorpe, MP

Lidia was the first Aboriginal woman elected into Victorian parliament. She is a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, living on Wurundjeri Country, and is a tireless advocate for our mob. What I appreciate about Lidia is that she advocates for mob as well as other pressing issues – including housing, schools, sport, and mental health. I think it’s important that our Indigneous politicians are not pigeonholed into just being the token blackfella, and Lidia is taking this journey for our people and other Australians.

Krystal Hurst

A Worimi woman who is an advocate for mob and the environment through her roles in SEED, and an artist who tells old stories of the land and of her journey – Krystal was the first Aboriginal artist I was ever in close contact with. Her art is incredible and inspires me to one day maybe pick up the paint brush myself! Aboriginal artists are important in our storytelling and supporting our local artists is incredibly close to my heart.

Murrawah Maroochy

Murrawah is of Wangan and Jagalingou country in Central Queensland, in the region referred to as the Galilee Basin. She is a Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owner and identifies with the Wiirdi-speaking Birragubba peoples. I first came across Murrawah when volunteering for SEED. Though never being lucky enough to meet her, her powerful speeches and unrelenting advocacy for her mob and mob across the country is inspiring. Environmental activism is a difficult space to be in, but Murrawah is paving the way to create meaningful change for Indigneous communities.

Nakkiah Lui

A playwright, actress, director, and podcast creator, Nakkiah is taking our culture and amplifying it through a variety of different art forms. She is a proud Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman from Mount Druitt, Western Sydney. She is an avid advocate for our mob, unafraid of truth-telling, and tackling issues like empowering Aboriginal women’s sexuality to pave the way for young mob to be confident in themselves. Her work is incredible, her advocacy pushes me to do more for our mob, and her different mediums of storytelling shows us that no matter where we go in life, we have the opportunity to create an impact on others.

These women are important as they show young Indigneous women like myself how high we can aim, and that we can achieve greatness while still helping our communities. This year, in line with our NAIDOC theme, ask yourself: who do you look up to? Who are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in your life that you appreciate and admire? – and then let them know!

Makayla is a proud Wiradjuri woman from Cootamundra, studying psychology at ANU.

Artwork by Ngaire Pakai:

“This piece was painted to raise money for the charity Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR), it displays the positive effects of having family and connection. It represents family and kinships, and those strong bonds that within indigenous communities, people have with their grandmothers. That maternal bond that is bound with every grandmother.”

Ngaire is a Wiradjuri and Maori woman studying Education at the University of Newcastle. 

More from Songlines