Because of Her, We Can

Graphic by Juliette Baxter

This year I felt myself stepping into my own personal power. Over the years I have played the role of being a people pleaser. I am aware that I can tick a number of other people’s boxes – I am intelligent, I can articulate myself, I have a strong work ethic, I am a team player, and my appearance appeals to society’s beauty standards. However, I realise that I no longer want to be seduced by others and what I can do for them simply because I can tick these boxes.

I am an Aboriginal woman, and navigating today’s society is challenging for me. I fall into the spaces of discrimination and injustice, gender imbalance, intergenerational trauma and its impacts on families, communities and myself. Much of what I have witnessed of the women in my life is how much of themselves they give to others; to their family members, their jobs, and their communities. They work hard to make their homes a safe place for everyone around them. In the midst of all this, their own health and wellbeing is often put aside.

I am a Yamatji woman, and I grew up on Wiilman country on the Noongar Nations in Western Australia. Both of my grandmothers were from the Pilbara and were of the stolen generation. I only knew my nana, Rose; a strong, striking and beautiful woman who was resilient and strong. She always wore beautiful dresses and had an eye for elegant fashion. I grew up 800km from my nana and only saw her occasionally, usually at Christmas time. I feel that I have inherited her creative flair for fashion, particularly when I am dressmaking and creating my own fashion projects. My grandma, Lily, unfortunately left this physical world the year I was born. She was removed from her mother at three years of age and photographs of her as an adult portray the impact that the trauma inflicted on her. Along with these photographs, I have a whole series of her welfare files recording details such as her whereabouts on any given day, interactions with authorities and social engagements. These files reflect the Aborigines Act 1905, where surveillance was imposed on my grandmother and other Aboriginal people in Western Australia. I mention these two women, Lily and Rose, because they are my spiritual guides; my inspiration, and are very much with me on my life journey. Because of Lily and Rose, I can.

This year’s NAIDOC theme celebrates the essential role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played, and continue to play, as active and significant role models at community, local, state and national levels. I am constantly thinking about how I want to contribute to social change; how I can facilitate and give voice to our mob. I realised that while I can work hard to achieve the goals that I set for myself, I want to balance my passion with softness and humility. This requires tuning into the ‘why’ of what I do and the ‘how’ of being the best version of myself. This is about adopting self-care practices that nurture my wellbeing. It’s about sharing these practices with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, to support each other in our professional journey, our personal growth, and to the harness life-long friendships. There is something truly magical about women coming together to hold space for one another; to share our learnings, insights and future dreams. I am also fortunate to share these spaces with incredible non-Indigenous women, where the difference in skin colour and culture does not matter. We come together as women to awaken and harness the feminine within, to share moments and insights and to support one another.

The energy of this year’s NAIDOC theme is still strong and vibrant. For me, sharing our culture and insights isn’t just for celebratory days; it’s an ongoing conversation. It is about acknowledging our rich history and respecting the many different cultures in Australia.

I now have clarity about how I want my future to be. I am a daughter, a sister, a niece, a nana, an aunty, a friend, a colleague, a scholar, Aboriginal, a mentor and a woman. I love being the woman I am and because of her I can.