A show of strength: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women head to Straight Talk

More than 70 strong, proud and purposeful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from throughout the country will head to Canberra to share their stories and sit down with women from all sides of politics at Oxfam Australia’s Straight Talk National Summit later this month.

Held from Sunday 26 November to Thursday 29 November, the 2018 summit will see women from each state and territory learn about the political process and build on their skills to creative positive change in their communities.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said the annual summit was always more than the sum of its parts for its many attendees, facilitators, guest speakers and trailblazers.

“This November, dozens of incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from across the country will again gather in our nation’s capital,” Dr Szoke said.

“Not only will they get to sit down with Parliamentarians, establish ongoing relationships and develop more tools to engage with the political system, chances are the women will walk away with something far more powerful – a greater voice in the decisions that affect their lives.”

The women will attend the summit’s official opening ceremony at Parliament House, to be co-hosted by Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Labor Senator and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and Greens Senator and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spokeswoman Rachel Siewart.

They will also take part in small group meetings with politicians at Parliament House, attend Question Time, take part in a Senate role play and have the chance to hear from MP Linda Burney, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Senator Patrick Dodson and MP Ken Wyatt.

This year, participants will hear from Straight Talk trailblazers such as Karen Driver, the inaugural Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence for Native American Affairs at the College of St Scholastica in Minnesota, who was an appointee of President Barack Obama as the Specialist Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs.

Gabrielle Hill, a 50-year-old Darwin resident and law student at Charles Darwin University, said taking part in Straight Talk was about continuing to raise her voice and the voices of other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“I’m doing Straight Talk partly because of Oxfam’s principles, the fact that poverty is unnecessary,” Ms Hill said. “There’s no need for it in a first world country like Australia, yet we’ve got families living in cars.

“By coming together at the summit, to brainstorm, we can learn from each other and share those ideas, take them back to our family, our community. Then eventually politicians will take notice of us.”

Ms Hill said the national scale of Straight Talk, and the opportunity for engagement with politicians in Parliament, was what set the summit apart.

“By having the ear of a politician, by them being willing to listen, and by us being willing to speak, we can enact change,” she said.

/Public Release.