Project News ·

Reef Traditional Owner women: ‘Speak your truth, change the world’

Coming together on Yirrganydji Country in far north Queensland, 13 Traditional Owner women from across the Reef took part in an intensive public speaking course this month. In a culturally-safe and supportive environment, the women focused on developing the tools and abilities to speak their truth as part of a 12-month leadership capacity-building program.

Traditional Owner women from across the Reef came together for an intensive public speaking course on Yirrganydji country in Far North Queensland in May 2021.

Image, back row left to right: Dawn Harrigan (Kuku Yalanji); Chrissy Grant (Kuku Yalanji); Dr Leah Talbot (Kuku Yalanji); Alicia Hanes (Kuku Yalanji, Djiru, Jirrbal); Liz Wren, Great Barrier Reef Foundation Director of Traditional Owner Partnerships; Alison Liddy (Lama Lama); Beverley Pascoe (Kuuku Ya’u); Mikayla Down, (Lama Lama); Chantal Roelofs, WomanSpeak. Front row left to right: Samala Cronin (Woppaburra); Samarla Noble (Kanju/Yirrganydji, Koinmerburra, Nywaigi); Laurissa Mundraby (Mandingalbay Yidinji); Natasha Parsgaard (Nywaigi, Manbarra, Gurang); Siobahn Singleton (Yirrganydji); Dr Kathy Chaston Radway, Great Barrier Reef Foundation Traditional Owner Partnerships Project Manager; Tamar Ben-Hur, WomanSpeak.

The need to elevate Reef Traditional Owner women’s voices is a shared priority for the Foundation and the Reef Trust Partnership Traditional Owner Advisory Group. It is also well-documented through the Queensland Indigenous Women’s Ranger Network Conference Report (2020), which calls for training and development support to build confidence and position women to share their insights, experience and knowledge.

“There is a need that is more than listening to women talk about the Reef – there is a need to help women find their voices, achieve clarity in their messages, and build their confidence. Creating a safe space for women to understand how fear and anxiety can be managed through different mechanisms, so that their voice can be heard is also a critical factor.”

Participant, Queensland Indigenous Women’s Ranger Network Conference, 2020.
Laurissa Mundraby, Mandingalbay Yidinji; Alicia Hanes, Kuku Yalanji, Djiru, Jirrbal; Dr Leah Talbot, Kuku Yalanji at WomanSpeak event, May 2021.JPEG

Laurissa Mundraby (Mandingalbay Yidinji), Alicia Hanes (Kuku Yalanji, Djiru, Jirrbal) and Dr Leah Talbot (Kuku Yalanji) at WomanSpeak event, May 2021.

Following an open call to current and aspiring Traditional Owner women leaders of the Reef, the Foundation has been overwhelmed by the interest and commitment of those who joined.

By providing the space, content and immersive experience, these Traditional Owner women were given the support to become clear and deeply aligned on what their core ideas are and what they stand for – and own the value of both.

They learnt techniques to access the deep wisdom held within their bodies and to bring that wisdom forward in their messaging.

To help with confidence, they were shown how their nervous system can be rewired, harnessing their energy so that speaking up becomes an experience of safety, power, joy and freedom.

They were offered a safe and nurturing space to take creative risks in developing their skill to articulate their vision.

We were thrilled and honoured that every woman in the group actively participated. Even our quietest leader found her voice and spoke courageously.

These skills simply cannot be underestimated. We know they have the potential to create inter-generational change and transformation.

Anthea Solomon and Chrissy Grant (both Kuku Yalanji) work together to prepare messaging for a presentation as part of WomanSpeak held in May 2021.

Anthea Solomon and Chrissy Grant (both Kuku Yalanji) work together to prepare messaging for a presentation as part of WomanSpeak, May 2021.

"It's given me the confidence to present and deliver a story."

Participant, WomanSpeak for Reef Traditional Owner women May 2021

"This has given me skills to apply at work and to also teach my kids. We need to create strong Indigenous leaders."

Participant, WomanSpeak for Reef Traditional Owner women May 2021

"We need to educate young ones to speak in both a cultural and non-Indigenous way."

Participant, WomanSpeak for Reef Traditional Owner women May 2021

"This has given me simple techniques to apply to panel discussions, meetings and working with youth."

Participant, WomanSpeak for Reef Traditional Owner women May 2021

"It gave me a lot more courage to break down the walls and to trust myself, giving me that shield to hold."

Participant, WomanSpeak for Reef Traditional Owner women May 2021
Yirrganydji Country in Far North Queensland for WomanSpeak May 2021
WomanSpeak participants May 2021
Time for reflection during WomanSpeak May 2021

For over 25 years, Traditional Owners from across the Reef have been calling for collaborative ways to achieve their rights and aspirations for ownership, access to and involvement in the formal governance and management of Sea Country.

But we know it’s often the same, relatively few Traditional Owners who generously participate in conventional Reef management decision-making and governance arrangements.

It’s critically important that more is done to support additional Traditional Owners along the Reef. And in this, elevate pathways for women as important community changemakers by adding their voices, knowledge and perspectives to the ongoing management of the Reef. This is especially so in providing good pathways that can attract women into leadership positions to help manage the Great Barrier Reef.

Under the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Traditional Owner Partnerships team is proud to be building the foundational pillars required to deliver on these aspirations.

Our aim is to create the conditions that will enable stronger Traditional Owner-led processes and achieve ongoing, more inclusive governance and management of the Reef, while recognising and elevating cultural values and diversity.

#Meet the Traditional Owner Partnerships team

Liz Wren

Liz Wren

Director, Traditional Owner Partnerships Team

Eliza Glasson

Eliza Glasson

Secretariat, Traditional Owner Partnerships Team

Dr Leah Talbot

Dr Leah Talbot

Project Manager, Traditional Owner Partnerships Team

Dr Kathy Chaston Radway

Dr Kathy Chaston Radway

Project Manager, Traditional Owner Partnerships Team

Karin Gerhardt

Karin Gerhardt

Associate Director, Traditional Owner Partnerships Team

More information about the WomanSpeak course that was adapted and tailored to Traditional Owner women for this program can be found at: https://womanspeak.com/