Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women: the right to be heard.

Indigenous Australia, Women's rights article written on the 06 Mar 2015

Straight Talk is an Australian program that connects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with the political system and builds the capacity of women as change makers. One such woman is Heather Shearer, an Aranda woman from Labrapuntja near Ntaria (Hermannsburg), a member of the Stolen Generation and proud mum/grandmother.

“I initially wanted to take part in the Straight Talk program to get inside Parliament House and understand the mechanisms of it all. I feel that I have a right and responsibility to speak up and touch base with politicians,” said Heather.

“Straight Talk reinforced my understanding that politicians are not necessarily the enemy, but a useful tool to assist in me in my personal and professional efforts to make a difference.”

Photo: Heather Shearer

Heather Shearer. Photo: James Henry/OxfamAUS

“I have worked in the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement as a Field Officer and then moved across to the Courts Administration Authority and worked as an Aboriginal Justice Officer in the Pt Augusta Courts (including court circuits to Coober Pedy and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands).

“I then worked from home as the National Project Officer for National Stolen Generations Alliance until June this year; I am currently following my passion and freelancing doing Art Healing workshops. I have also just taken up a part time position as a trainee Aboriginal Financial Counsellor/Consumer Affairs Advocate.”

Heather and her fellow participants engaged with female parliamentarians from all political leanings. These meetings facilitated two-way learning between the women and parliamentarians, and created opportunities for future collaboration – working together to achieve greater justice and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

“My participation in Straight Talk has regenerated my personal view of myself – that I do have a lot to offer, and that I am a role model to our younger people. My meeting with the parliamentarian was brilliant. I was with two other ladies from SA and we worked great as a team and engaged in meaningful conversations with the Senators,” said Heather.

“We discussed a commitment to keep in touch and be available to each other in our future needs. Not just us to give them advice on Aboriginal issues, but ensure there will be an outcome.”

With a focus on practical tools and confidence, Straight Talk brings women together to share, learn and be effective in making a difference.

“I will ensure I am more aware of the responsibilities of our local politician, also to make appropriate approaches when I believe they have a responsibility to be aware, speak up or support me to make changes in the areas I am committed to. I will continue what I already do with an added set of tools from Straight Talk that will make me indestructible.

“The program provided a wealth of information, the opportunity to network with other amazing women around the country, hearing the Trail Blazers, getting the opportunity to ask the hard questions we have been waiting to ask. It all adds up and gives to each and every one of us a regenerated boost to ourselves (which we don’t give ourselves), and empowers us to believe again.”

Heather Shearer is an Aranda woman from Labrapuntja near Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and a member of the Stolen Generation. She has been living in Port Augusta in South Australia for seven and a half years. She’s worked in the Stolen Generations movement for more than 38 years and is also a practicing artist and exhibited her art locally, nationally and internationally. She has three children and four grandchildren and has been with her partner Tim for 24 years.