Hello Everyone,

I wanted to share my story from the International Women’s Day event in Karratha, that was hosted by the lovely ladies at Soroptimist International Karratha. I hope my story will inspire you to treasure the amazing women in your world.

“Thank-you for the opportunity to share with you today, and welcome everyone to the event and to this beautiful country – Ngarluma Ngurra. I want to share a story with you about the strong women in my family that have inspired me and continue to inspire me. In line with this years’ NAIDOC theme, this story is called, “Because of Her, I Can”.

I grew up in Roebourne and I am very proud of where I come from. I’m also very protective of my home town. I identify as a Ngarluma Aboriginal woman through my Mum Joan. Both of her parents were Ngarluma. My family specifically connect to the Ngurin, the Harding River, that runs through Roebourne. I attended Roebourne Primary School; Wickham District High School; and Karratha Senior High School.

Roebourne was my entire world up until I finished year 12. Then I moved to a new world that took me on a journey for 12 years before returning home to Roebourne in late 2012. This journey involved university; working for a global mining company; working for an international law firm; and working in the Native Title space. It also involved travel to places like Canada and the US. The courage I had to leave the comfort of the only world that I knew was given to me by my mother and her value of education. The determination that I had to achieve whatever goals I set for myself, came from my mother.

I am part of a long line of strong women. We can trace our Aboriginal ancestry back to the 1860s to my great grandmothers, grandmother. Her name was Mary, and her traditional way of life changed the day that pastoralists arrived on her country. Mary had a daughter named Rosie, and Rosie had a white father from the pastoral industry. Rosie had two daughters and one of them was my great grandmother, Molly. In the Ngarluma culture, Molly is my Gundat, my daughter. One of Molly’s children was my Grandfather, Reggie, and he married my Grandmother, Judy. My grandparents worked on the stations, and my mum was raised by her grandparents, in Roebourne.

Mom and Lucy For the past 5 years, I have been involved in the space of small business. My decision to move into business on my own came about in 2013. That was also the year I faced my toughest challenges. That year, just two weeks after my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. As I left the hospital in an ambulance to the airport, my Mum gave me my great grandmother, Molly’s wedding ring for strength. I had surgery and when I woke up I couldn’t stand or walk. I had to re-learn to walk in a rehabilitation facility of mostly old people. 6 months after this massive curve ball, I decided to start my own consulting business, Roebourne Consulting Services. I wanted to share my learnings with

others and I wanted to be an independent voice that wasn’t censored by anyone. For those of you that follow me on LinkedIn, you will understand what I mean by not being censored.

A big part of what I do now is deliver a workshop called “Engaging with Aboriginal Communities”. I developed this workshop out of frustration and as a tool to help those many service providers delivering services to Aboriginal Communities, but not achieving outcomes. I wanted to share my successful model approach to engagement that I developed and used as a Native Title Lawyer working in the Kimberley and in South Queensland.

Through this workshop I share important messages that includes:

  • “Aboriginal Heritage and Aboriginal Cultures are Australian Heritage and Australian Cultures”.
  • “Your country is not 230 years old. It is over 65,000 years old”.
  • “If you are proud to be an Australian, be proud of the magnificent Aboriginal Cultures and heritage of this country”.
  • “Our history for the past 230 years has shaped this country. We must understand and respect our history. We must own our history – the good, the bad, and the evil”.
  • “Regardless of our history that sought to destroy Aboriginal Cultures in this country, many cultures have survived. This means that the Aboriginal Cultural World has survived. It is within this world that consultation and engagement with Aboriginal Communities must occur for it to be successful”.
  • “As Australians, we must commit to learning about Aboriginal Cultures to bridge the gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. It can’t just be a one way street where Aboriginal Peoples are expected to learn about the Mainstream Western World, but non-Aboriginal people don’t need to learn about Aboriginal Cultures. Some people call that one-way street, assimilation”.
  • “If you are involved in “Closing Gaps” for Aboriginal Communities, you must ensure that you also “Close Your Gap” on Aboriginal Cultures”.
  • “For us to achieve reconciliation in Australia, we must recognise the two worlds that exist; embrace them both; and confidently and respectfully walk in both”.
Speaking Events
In my workshop I share the story of my family. Our history, yours and mine, was not kind to Aboriginal people. The world that my great grandmother, Molly, was born into was a hard world for Aboriginal people, and even harder for Aboriginal women. They were born as non-citizens of their own country, and it wasn’t until 1967 that Rosie; Molly; and my Mum, got unconditional citizenship rights.

Another important role that I have is as a Director of our Aboriginal Medical Service, Mawarnkarra Health Service, in Roebourne. I am in my third consecutive term and my 6th year. This is a role that I am very passionate about. As a Director, I am part of guiding the strategic direction of Mawarnkarra, the most important service provider in my Community. I have had a connection to Mawarnkarra since I was 6 years old, which was when my Mum started working there as an Aboriginal Health Worker. Fast forward over 25 years and my Mum is the Chief Executive Officer, and I am a Director.

When I think of the amazing opportunities I have had in my 34 years, I remember my old people, and I am grateful to their strength and resilience that they have passed down to each generation after them. Because of the Women in my Family, I have a strong and resilient spirit. I remember them, and I will never forget the journey that they travelled, so that I could enjoy the life that I have today. I am just a girl from Roebourne, and if I can achieve what I have in my 34 years, anyone can achieve the same or more. I am a mother; lawyer; a business woman; a Director; a writer; an advocate for my community; and a teacher. I am all of these things because of her – my mum.

As a mother to my little girl, Lucy, and all of my brothers and sister’s children, I want them to be proud of who they are. I want them to appreciate the value of education; the importance of family; and to embrace their culture. I almost didn’t make it here today. I almost didn’t make it past 30 years old. But I am here because I am meant to be here. I am here to walk a path chosen for me by my ancestors. I am here because of her – my Mum.

I strongly believe that my old people have guided me through my life, and today, my life is about my family and my community. I am so thankful to Mary, to Rosie, to Molly, to my grandmother Judy, and to my Mum, Joan. Because of them, I can do anything. To all of the women here today, thank you for inspiring those around you, and always remember that the journey of women in this country has not been as easy one. Certainly, the journey of Aboriginal women has been tough. But today, we are here together paying respects to women not only here in Australia, but around the world. Be inspired by women. Be proud to be a woman in this great country of ours. Thank you.”

Jolleen Hicks