Straight Talking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women head to Parliament House

Campaigns and Advocacy, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases, News article written on the 06 Jun 2013

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from around Australia are heading to Canberra this month for some ‘Straight Talking’ with female Parliamentarians.

Oxfam Australia’s fourth Straight Talk national summit, from 16 – 20 June, will see 65 women of all ages, backgrounds and locations converge in Canberra to meet with women in Federal Parliament.

From Yorke Island in the Torres Strait, to Launceston in Tasmania, the diverse group includes women working in a range of different fields such as education, health, art and youth.

Oxfam Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Program Manager Karrina Nolan said participants would learn about the political system, discuss common issues of concern and generate strategies for bringing about change, before meeting with women from all sides of politics at Parliament House.

“We know the participation of women in decision-making is central to our efforts to address poverty and injustice,” Ms Nolan said.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert will all speak to the women at a welcoming ceremony at Parliament House on 19 June. 

The Straight Talk participants will hear from inspiring trailblazers, including Aboriginal leader Shirley Peisley, whose campaigning was critical to the success of the 1967 referendum.  

“Many of these women are already committed to making a difference in their communities and have a powerful role to play in leading change,” Ms Nolan said. 

“These meetings really give something to both parties.  For the women, it makes politicians more accessible and shows they can listen, and for the politicians, it creates a better understanding of the issues facing women and their communities.”

Forty-seven-year-old Brigitte Wolfe, an art coordinator, teacher and mentor with a bridging program at the University of Tasmania’s Riawunna Centre, is currently developing Launceston’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gallery.

She wants to see more community centres and spaces for Indigenous people.  Education is her passion.  Ms Wolfe left school in Grade 9, then later re-entered education to complete two diplomas at the same time.  She is currently completing a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts Degree.

“I have experienced first-hand the barriers our people face in the education system, and am now devoted to helping Indigenous people get an education,” Ms Wolfe said. 

“It gives our people the ability to advance themselves, and enjoy a better lifestyle, health and greater opportunities than they otherwise would experience.

“I feel that Straight Talk will enhance my effectiveness as a teacher, mentor and role model in my community.  I’d like to come back to my community to help empower others to make positive changes in their life.”

To interview a participant in your area, contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801 or