Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and community leaders head to Canberra for Straight Talk 15 August

Oxfam Australia

More than 50 First Nations women from across Australia have travelled to Canberra to learn about the federal political system while forming powerful networks at Oxfam Australia's Straight Talk National Summit.

Kicking off yesterday, the five-day summit will see women from across the country gain invaluable insights into political processes and build on their skills to create positive change in their communities.

Executive Lead of Oxfam's First Peoples Program and proud Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman Ngarra Murray said the return of the summit after a three-year hiatus represented so much to First Nations women and communities, and is especially significant given Linda Burney's appointment as the first Aboriginal woman Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from across the country have again gathered on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country for Straight Talk; bound by a mutual commitment to empower their communities and to contribute to real, positive change for generations to come," she said.

"The women will get the chance to sit down with Parliamentarians, develop more tools to engage with the political system and establish lifelong relationships. Most importantly, Straight Talk supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to amplify their voices and realise their right to self-determination — ensuring that they have a seat at the table to make decisions about the things that directly affect their lives and communities."

The women represent many different nations and language groups, range in age from 20s up to 60s, and have a wealth of life experience that has contributed to their collective passion, drive and commitment to their communities.

They will attend the summit's official opening ceremony at Parliament House, to be hosted by the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. Led by Kuka Yulanji woman and NAIDOC Scholar of the Year 2015, Michelle Deshong, the women will take part in small group meetings with politicians at Parliament House, participate in a Senate role play and have the chance to hear from MPs such as Yamatji-Noongar woman and WA Senator Dorinda Cox and Senate President Sue Lines.

Guest speakers include Karen Diver, who was US President Barack Obama's Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs.

Since its inception in 2009, the Straight Talk program has brought together more than 950 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, many of whom have ascended into change-making roles within their communities and beyond.

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