10 First Nations changemakers standing and showing up for a better future

10 First Nations changemakers standing and showing up for a better future

Indigenous

As we recognise and celebrate National NAIDOC Week, we will be taking cue from this year’s theme: Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! to amplify the voices of First Nations people and “…narrow the gap between aspiration and reality, good intent and outcome.”

Held from 3-10 July this year, NAIDOC Week is about recognising the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To mark the occasion, we’re highlighting 10 First Nations changemakers who have stood up to create change, improve outcomes and champion the voices and stories of other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mykaela Saunders

Koori and Lebanese queer writer Mykaela Saunders has been winning prizes for her fiction, poetry, essays and research for many years. As a widely published thinker, she has worked in Aboriginal education in various capacities for almost two decades.

Most recently, she edited This Is All Come Back Now, the world’s first collection of blackfella speculative fiction, published by University of Queensland Press.

Claire G. Coleman

Noongar woman Claire G. Coleman authored “Lies, Damned Lies”, released in September last year, which unpacks the effects of the history of colonisation. As a writer of fiction, essays, poetry and art criticism, her works provide a searing commentary on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their lives affected by colonial violence. 

“Terra Nullius” won a Black&Write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship, while “The Old Lie” an intergalactic saga, was written before Coleman became a member of the cultural advisory committee for Agency, a Not-for-profit Indigenous arts Consultancy.

Amy Thunig

Gamilaroi woman Amy Thunig is an academic who researches the intersection of Indigenous knowledges, sovereignty, and formal education systems. Her thesis ‘Sovereign women: why academia?’ completed this year, uses Indigenous research methodologies to record and analyse the choices, motivations, and experiences of First Nations women academics in “so-called Australia”, focusing on participant sovereignty and voice.

Thunig’s first book ‘Tell Me Again’ will be published in November, 2022 with University of Queensland Press.

Allira Potter

As a trained energy healer, manifestation and spiritual coach, author & social media campaigner, Potter, a proud Yorta Yorta woman, aims to debunk the wellness narrative to make sure we have diverse representation in our society and decolonise the ‘white-dominated’ wellness space.

Last December, she released her debut book ‘Wild & Witchy’ – an unapologetic handbook for millennials about life, loss, spirituality, and women’s intuition.

Professor Megan Davis

This Cobble Cobble Indigenous rights expert holds several impressive titles; she is the Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and a Professor of Law at UNSW, an Acting Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court, a constitutional lawyer and the Uluru Dialogue co-chair. 

In 2011, Prof. Davis became the first Indigenous person from Australia elected to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Six years later, in 2017, she delivered the Uluru Statement from the Heart. 

Merrissa Nona

This extraordinary change maker is the Cairns-based CEO of Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good (DIYDG), a youth-led non-profit Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Corporation founded in 2016 by passionate, empowered citizens to give young people a platform to do good and lead in their communities.

After spending several years as a passionate community leader, Nona won an APAC Insider Award for Most Empowering Youth-Led Organisation CEO this year. 

Murrawah Johnson

This inspiring Wirdi woman holds many titles. She is a spokesperson, community organiser and campaigner for the Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council campaign to stop the Adani Carmichael coal mine proposed on their traditional country. 

In 2015, she was Naomi Klein’s choice for the Grist 50 list of the top 50 movers and shakers to look out for. Murrawah is also the South East Queensland Coordinator for Seed, Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network.

Nayuka Gorrie

This Gunai/Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer has been prominently standing up for Indigenous rights and intersectional feminism for years. Not only are they a television comedy writer, they have been a vocal advocate against brutal incarnation in Australia, and most recently, the ethics of vaccination during the pandemic.

Later this month, Gorrie will join forces with fellow writer Ashe Davenport to run a professional development session in Melbourne on defying the sanitised portrayal of parenthood and embracing its often-chaotic realities.

Ngarra Murray

As a Wamba Wamba (Gourmjanyuk) Yorta Yorta (Wallithica) woman, Murray has worked in the Melbourne Aboriginal community for the past two decades, holding a range of positions in both government and community sectors.

As the National Manager at Oxfam Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Program, Murray works to support First Nations people to “strengthen their voice and achieve self-determination, eliminate injustice, hold governments to account, increase their participation in political and other decision-making processes, build public support to close the gap, and achieve Indigenous equality”. In September 2017, she joined the National NAIDOC committee. 

Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts

As a proud Bundjalung Widjabul Wia-bal woman, Turnbull-Roberts has spent years working to highlight the importance of abolishing child protection in the lives of First Nations communities, and juvenile detention centres.

She has been published in The Guardian, Victorian Women’s Trust, Junkee and Indigenous X while using the power of storytelling, writing, and advocacy to share the injustices committed against blak bodies. 


You can find out more about the 2022 NAIDOC Week theme and the community events being held this week here.

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