Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women talk straight at Parliament House

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 14 Sep 2011

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women of all ages and backgrounds from across the country will be at Parliament House in Canberra next week (18 – 23 September) for Oxfam’s third annual Straight Talk Summit.

Women from remote communities, country towns and big cities will meet with women from all sides of politics, including the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues Senator Rachel Siewert, to find ways of working together to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The 62 participants will bring their commitment to stronger communities, improvements in Indigenous health, and concerns for young people to the ears of politicians whom they hope will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing Indigenous people.

Oxfam’s Straight Talk coordinator Karrina Nolan said the Straight Talk participants were an inspiring group of women working across a diverse range of issues, using different ways to change their communities for the better.

“From hundreds of applicants we’ve selected an outstanding group of women who will sit down with the politicians whose decisions impact their lives,” Ms Nolan said. “These women are already striving for and achieving change in their communities.”

Thirty-two-year old participant Carla McGrath is a Torres Strait Islander living in Sydney’s inner-west, whose work has included increasing the number of Indigenous students completing high school and entering university.

“For too long, the conversation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has been dominated by the language of disadvantage and marginalisation,” Ms McGrath said. “We need to tell the stories of excellence, success and resilience that are prevalent within our communities.”

Meanwhile, 56-year-old Elaine Kropinyeri of Mount Gambier in South Australia, whose great-great uncle, David Unaipon, appears on the Australian $50 note, supports Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system through her role as Elder in the local Nunga Court, and has broken down barriers between police and youths in her area. She currently works with Aboriginal families in crisis, for Anglicare.

“I passionately feel that prejudice is only ignorance, and that by good information and education, barriers can be overcome and bridges built towards mutual respect and understanding,” she said.

Straight Talk participants represent all backgrounds, education levels and employment histories.

Ms Nolan said the women would undertake an intensive program in Canberra before their meetings with politicians, extending skills, knowledge and confidence to engage with the political system to bring about change.

For further information or interviews with participants in your area, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au