Straight talking women making a difference

 In News

By Reconciliation Australia’s Senior Communications Officer, Amy Williams.

This year I had the privilege of being selected to participate in Oxfam’s Straight Talk National Summit where I met 65 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from all over Australia. These strong women wanted to share their passions and stories about issues in their communities and wanted to gain a better understanding of how the political system worked and learn how they could influence change back in their communities.

As a group we set ground rules about supporting, respecting and listening to each other. We talked about issues such as housing, health, education, services, policy, women, leadership and closing the gap. We laughed, learnt and made lifelong friends.

Image courtesy of the Koori Mail

Our lead facilitator Michelle Deshong encouraged us to be strong women, change makers and leaders. My group facilitator Michelle Watson and mentor Lee Jard supported me through this journey and encouraged me participate as much as possible and have my say. I talked about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian constitution with other participants who questioned the impact this will have on our future. They wanted to know more, we all wanted to learn more.

During the summit, we learnt about preparing for effective lobbying, successful campaigning, positive networking and building the right relationships. The Straight Talk group learnt about the theory of change and we worked through the steps for putting plans into action and making changes. We heard from inspiring role models and successful change makers like Jackie Huggins, Shirley Peisley, Kim Farmerm and Lisa Briggs.

Later the group talked about how the media can influence politics and people’s perceptions and the importance of communicating the right key messages. I also did my first ever live radio interview with 666 ABC radio.

Photo by Wayne Quilliam

We also had the privilege to visit Parliament House where we heard from influential parliamentarians about their positions as women in Parliament including Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP and Member of the Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert. The Straight Talk group also had the opportunity to get up close and observe Question Time.

On the final day of the Straight Talk National Summit, I was part of a small group who met with Australian Greens Senator, Lee Rhiannon where we had the opportunity to raise our own issues of concern. I spoke with Senator Rhiannon about the Australian Greens commitment to recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution and asked her advice on how to best promote the Recognise campaign to gain more support and raise awareness.

The Straight Talk National Summit gave me a different perspective of the political system and living and working in Canberra. I feel empowered and supported to make a difference. I know I’m on the right path now, working on issues that are important to me and I hope to see more positive changes in my lifetime.

Photo by Oxfam Australia
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