Because of Her, We Can – Kirstie Parker
“To me, a reconciled Australia is one where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people take their rightful place in the sun.”
Ms Kirstie Parker is a Yuwullarai woman from northwest NSW and Director of Reconciliation Australia.
She has had a distinguished career of more than 25 years in a range of fields, including Indigenous journalism, communications and management of Indigenous organisations.
Ms Parker has served as the editor of national Indigenous newspaper the Koori Mail, media advisor to former Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Robert Tickner, and head of public affairs for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
She has also held positions as Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, Director of the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute – Tandanya, and Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
Ms Parker has received multiple awards for her achievements and contributions, including an Australian Peacewoman Award in 2015, and was named in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac inaugural 100 Women of Influence Awards in 2012.
What or who got you involved in reconciliation?
I joined Reconciliation Australia in 2011 but have been consciously committed to reconciliation my whole life, certainly before it became ‘a thing’. My Aboriginal mum and non-Aboriginal dad raised us kids to treat all others with kindness and respect – irrespective of colour, culture, religion, gender or bank balance – and to insist on the same in return. That’s ingrained in us as adults and I’m grateful for that.
What does a reconciled Australia look like to you?
To me, a reconciled Australia is one where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people take their rightful place in the sun. This means that our rights as First Australians are not just respected but championed in all the places that matter, whether in houses of parliament or legislature, on suburban streets or social media. It means that the nation’s full history is on the record, well known and broadly accepted, and that we and non-Indigenous Australians can discuss that history in a safe, calm and good-humoured way and use the learnings from it in our current and future relationships.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to national reconciliation?
I’m totally smitten with and proud of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, values, courage and dignity, and I’m convinced that many more Australians would feel the same way – if they only truly knew us. This, in turn, would lead to better treatment of our issues. So, an important first, if not biggest, challenge is helping others to see and know us, while taking into consideration all the reasons for resistance and accepting that many of our own mobs feel bruised and exhausted from the past. No matter when or where opportunity knocks – at the local bus stop or on talkback airwaves – we must step up and answer.