First Nations women leave Straight Talk Summit in Canberra ready to make ‘real change’ in SA

A First Nations woman from South Australia says a national conference this week has rekindled the fire within her to continue fighting for real change in her own communities.

Kaurna and Arabunna woman Janette Milera said she felt humbled to be invited to attend Oxfam’s Straight Talk Summit this week — a program she has applied to take part in every year since it first began in 2009.

She was among 50 other First Nations women from around the country who traveled to the nation’s capital to meet with federal ministers and learn more about the political system.

Ms Milera said although she had always been an activist, the program had empowered her to keep pushing for change.

“I know that I have a strong voice but let me tell you, there were some women there that had much stronger voices than me,” Ms Milera said.

political ambitions

Ms Milera said the conference was a great opportunity to see what strategies other First Nations women used in their own communities to advocate for change.

She planned to take her own experience and what she learned at the conference to move into the wider political space.

“As Aboriginal people we are always involved in politics, the politics within our community is something we deal with very young,” she said.

“I am seriously looking at how I can move from the community activist… to a much more stronger voice and a more powerful voice that will actually help make change.”

Ms Milera says she’s applied to be a part of the conference every year since it began.(Supplied)

“I’ve learned more about the Australian democracy system and how our Parliament works and how we can navigate and influence the system from our communities.”

She said the women had the opportunity to ask female federal ministers about the pathways they took to enter politics, as well as the struggles they encountered and overcame on the way.

“An eye-opener for a lot of us was that even though these women are Aboriginal women they have taken up positions to be the voice for everybody,” she said.

“That was something I thought [some] Aboriginal people sort of forget.”

Ms Milera said they also had the chance to discuss with ministers what strategies they would take once they returned to their own communities.

Kelli Owen at the Straight Talk Summit with the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney
Kaurna, Narungga and Ngarrindjeri woman Kelli Owen met with the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.(Supplied)

“Some of us were interested in looking at running for local government or state government, so we were given a good direction in which to go and good advice,” she said.

“They also said we could come back and contact them if we needed them for support.

“This has definitely re-kindled that fire in my belly to go back to community and go back to South Australia and get the women’s voices together and up and running so that the Aboriginal women in South Australia have a strong voice.”

Making ‘deadly connections’

Ms Milera said once she returned home she would work on starting discussions with her local MPs to address issues within her communities across Adelaide and Port Augusta.

“I think changing legislation, putting forward bills to make change is definitely something I will be looking at,” she said.

She said she would also be recommending the program to younger women in her community who were interested in entering politics.

Ngarrindjeri woman Shaylem Wilson said although she applied for the program to learn more about how to navigate the political system, she got much more out of the event than she expected.

A group photo of women looking off to the right and all cheering, some with hands up in the air
Ms Wilson says it was inspiring to be surrounded by other First Nations women at Parliament House.(ABC: Toby Hunt)

“As a young First Nations woman I feel honored that other women from across the country shared their knowledge, strength and power,” she said.

“It’s been inspiring and heartwarming to share this journey with 50 plus First Nations women.

“I’ve made some deadly connections that I’m sure will follow me forever.”

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