Culture

Five Inspirational First Nations Women To Celebrate On International Women’s Day 2021

Deadly women we need to celebrate on #InternationalWomensDay 2021

First Nations women

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International Women’s Day is here again, and the theme this year is ‘Choose to Challenge’, highlighting the power of challenge in any environment, with an emphasis on calling out gender bias and equality.

Celebrating all that is ‘girl power’, fierce females, and women who advocate for their people is what this day is all about. First Nations women are pioneers when it comes to advocating for equality — not just standing up against sexism and misogyny, but racism too.

So, to celebrate IWD2021, I’ve made a list of First Nations women who are making waves in their chosen industries and professions, and definitely “Choose to Challenge” in their everyday lives and careers.

They’re the ones we look to for inspiration to keep us going. The ones who’s pages we head to when there are important matters involving our communities, knowing they’ll be doing their best to use their voices. They’re the ones who aren’t afraid to speak up for the mob, to be proud, and to continue the journey our ancestors started.


PROFESSOR MARCIA LANGTON AO

Name: Professor Marcia Langton AO

Mob/tribe/clan: Iman

Job title: Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies and Associate Provost, The University of Melbourne; Director, Indigenous Studies Unit, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

Proudest achievement to date: Raising two children and my three grandchildren.

What or who inspires you? My first encounter with an inspiring leader was in the 1960s when I watched Martin Luther King Jr on TV. He inspired a generation of us, and many of the Elders in Queensland manifested his civil rights messages through their work in the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. They campaigned for 10 years and achieved the ‘Yes’ vote in the 1967 Referendum. That gave us the platform to argue the case for Indigenous empowerment today.

Joe McGuiness was the president for many years, so he was a great inspiration. And of course, there was the late Koiki Mabo, who was also a member of FCAATSI. His vision and leadership which led to the successful Mabo No 2 case in the High Court changed the game and gave us a seat at the table.

Advice you would give young people following in your footsteps: Obtain the best education you can, do not be afraid, chase your dream, and do not give up.

Do you have a favourite quote? “The world is run by people who show up.”

What makes you so passionate about advocating for mob? Our histories are so traumatic and so poorly understood by most Australians. Every win in our civil and human rights accords us more opportunity to be treated as human beings with dignity and inherent respect for our humanity.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently? I should have finished my law degree back in the 70s. Always finish the job unless life is too hard. Look after your health. Have fun along the way.

SENATOR LIDIA THORPE

Name: Lidia Thorpe

Mob/tribe/clan: Gunnai Gunditjmara DjabWurrung

Job title: Federal Greens Senator for Victoria

Proudest achievement to date: Being an activist, a parliamentarian, and an active member of my community whilst raising three children.

What or who inspires you? I’m from a strong matriarchal line of powerful activist women. I am inspired, and draw my strength from my grandmothers, mother, aunties and sister.

Advice you would give young people following in your footsteps: My grandmother always told me, never forget where you come from and who you are. That means connection, culture and the struggle of resistance.

Do you have a favourite quote? “Always was Always will be Aboriginal Land!”

What makes you so passionate about advocating for mob? I was born into the struggle, I am part of the struggle, and I will always work towards a better life for my people in our own country.

Advice you would give to your younger self? Value yourself and your loved ones around you. Don’t let racism beat you down, hold your head high, and know your ancestors are guiding you.

TAYLAH GRAY

 Name: Taylah Gray

Mob/tribe/clan: Wiradjuri and Ngunnawal

Profession or job Title: Lawyer and PhD candidate. I also work as a sessional academic where I teach Aboriginal Tertiary Studies.

Proudest achievement to date: Becoming a lawyer, I think. From failing every legal studies assessment and exam in year 11 and 12, to topping my class in the final year of Law school for Advanced Legal Writing and Research — that’s my little redemption story.

What or who inspires you? Women who are confident and challenge the status quo. I think Senator Lidia Thorpe is staunch. Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez goes hard too.

Advice you would give young people following in your footsteps: Walk with purpose and speak your truth. Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end yet.

Do you have a favourite quote? “With every painful blow of injustice, the question should no longer be ‘what easy thing can I do to help now’ but ‘what hard things must I do to help for a lifetime?'” –Danielle Coke.

What makes you so passionate about advocating for mob? I just love the legacy of Blackness I come from and I never want to see it hurt. I think that’s the creator spirits doing. They’ve instilled a broad vision of justice in me. So, when I look at mob, I think to myself: that’s me. We mirror each other’s success and we also mirror each other’s pain.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently? Or advice you would give to your younger self? I’d stop and take the time to love my Black features more. I can’t believe I was ever ashamed to have inherited these things from the preceding generations. They are features that I now so fiercely protect.

I would go back and tell myself this: I am so glad that when the gods made me, they crafted me into an Aboriginal woman. How unfair it must have been to the rest of the world that they were allowed to instil so much power and wisdom only into our bones.

BARKAA

Name: Chloe Nunkeri- Lowana Quayle aka BARKAA

Mob/tribe/clan: Malyangapa and Barkindji

Profession: Music Artist and mother

Proudest achievement to date: Having my babies. Getting off drugs and following my dreams. Creating my own future, so my bubbas can look up to me.

What or who inspires you? Blak women, seeing them carry community on their backs, and fighting for us mob is inspiring. I’m proud to be a part of what I’m a part of.

Advice you would give young people following in your footsteps: Believe in yourself and never give up on yourself, when you fall down, get back up and don’t put your head down to make anybody feel comfortable. Keep your head held high and remember who you are and where you come from.

Do you have a favourite quote? “Rock bottom teaches you things mountain tops never will” and “I know what my lows look like, now I know the sky’s the limit”.

What makes you so passionate about advocating for mob? Lived experience as a Blak woman shapes you to be strong. Being raised by a mother who was a part of the Stolen Generations and seeing ongoing injustice still happening to our mob makes you have to fight against the system and speak out. If I stay silent, I’m only hurting myself and my children’s futures. Silence would just eat me alive.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently? Or advice you would give to your younger self? [There is ] nothing I’d do differently. I’m thankful for my journey even though I’m not proud of what I did in my past and feel ashamed of who I used to be. She was hurting too, she was growing, she was fighting a fight within herself, and did the best way she knew how.

But if I was to go back and talk to my younger self, I would say to her that you’re worthy, that you’re needed, and that you’re going to be something and get your life on track and be there for your babies — you will feel whole again. This will pass and life will be worth living.

I think guilt for our past at times isn’t good, but it’s good to feel those feelings because they bring about change.

Fallon Gregory

Name: Fallon Gregory

Mob/tribe/clan: Kija, Gija, and Bardi

Profession: Model, influencer, and mother

Proudest achievement to date: Raising a large amount of money for the “Feed a Family Initiative”. Using my platform to be able to give back to our community during a lockdown when families were most in need felt amazing. Also, I’m featured on a huge advertisement for Aboriginal brand Kirrikin at Perth airport.

What or who inspires you? My children. They inspire me to be my best self, they ground me, and remind me that giving up isn’t an option, as being their role-model, I am setting the standard.

Advice you would give young people following in your footsteps: Don’t doubt your abilities and take every opportunity that presents itself. Even if the result isn’t a desired outcome, it’s then a learning opportunity.

Do you have a favourite quote? “As it comes, let it. As it leaves let it.”

What makes you so passionate about advocating for mob? Because as First Nations People still thriving in our Sovereign country, I feel we deserve to be on the frontlines of everything Australian. Not blatantly denied, discarded, and dismissed as we are.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently? Or advice you would give to your younger self? No — I’m a believer of everything happens for a reason. Advice I would give my younger self: What other people think of you doesn’t determine your life.