Register for pioneering leadership summit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

Campaigns and Advocacy, General, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases, News article written on the 30 Mar 2016

Oxfam is inviting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from across Australia to participate in a week-long national summit in Canberra to build skills to engage with the political system in order to make positive changes in their communities.

The national summit, from 6 to 10 November, is part of Oxfam’s Straight Talk program, which has empowered more than 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to learn more about the political system.

Oxfam Australia’s Straight Talk coordinator Rebecca Harnett said the program had supported many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to apply their skills over the past eight years.

“Straight Talk has helped get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women further access to their political representatives in order to get their voices heard around issues that affect them, their families and their communities,” Ms Harnett said.

“The program has had excellent success. Our previous participants include the first female mayor of the Torres Shire Council Vonda Malone (expected to be announced today), the coordinator of this year’s Garma Festival Mayatili Marika of Yirrkala, as well as trailblazers such as Senator for the Northern Territory Nova Peris, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Dr Jackie Huggins and Soprano and academic Deborah Cheetham.”

Straight Talk participant, facilitator and mentor Vonda Malone, said it helped set the focus for the leadership path she would take.

“I attended Straight Talk in 2010 and it confirmed my aspirations to be a leader in my community. It was so uplifting; I met many strong successful Indigenous women of all ages with different careers, backgrounds and life experiences,” Ms Malone said.

“As I’m from Thursday Island, I’d had never had the opportunity to network like that and to get familiar with the pathway to become a leader.

“If women want to play a greater role in their community, and not necessarily only in elected positions but in their region, I would encourage them to participate in Straight Talk. It sets a solid foundation for increasing women’s knowledge and capacity and helps them to excel in the different fields in which they’re working.”

The national summit provides women with the opportunity to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences and work together to develop strategies to address common issues.

“Many women are already committed to making a difference in their communities and have a powerful role to play in leading change; it is critical that women have a strong voice in the decisions that affect their lives,” Ms Harnett said.

Program participants will also meet with women from all sides of politics at Parliament House.

Applications close 25 April. To apply, phone 03 9289 9481 or email

For media interviews, please contact Alice Plate on 0418 873 782 or