A proud, straight-talking woman

Success stories, Indigenous Australia, Women's rights article written on the 22 Mar 2018

Oxfam Australia Straight Talk

For too long, the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been unheard in Australia’s political landscape. But we’re working with partner organisation Aarnja to make sure that women like Bev Walley are heard, loud and clear.

It was a true meeting of minds when 40 Aboriginal women, from all corners of the Kimberley, gathered in Broome in October for the region’s first ever Straight Talk. They travelled from far and wide to exchange ideas and discover new tactics for becoming change-makers in their communities. Bev Walley (pictured below) from Kununurra was there to share and learn.

“After being told so much about Straight Talk, I convinced myself to apply,” Bev says. “I felt I had to experience this journey of meeting other women who would have had different views, as well as experiences themselves.”

Straight Talk Broome

At Straight Talk, Bev met women from all across the Kimberley, including Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Dampier Peninsula and Broome.

“The highlight for me was bringing all Indigenous women together to strengthen our skills and to bring about change in our community. It was an opportunity to come together with others from different regions, to build relationships with each other.”

An impressive cast of inspirational Indigenous women took part in the event, including former Senator and Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris and National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Co-Chair and author Jackie Huggins.

“The most special [thing] was meeting the trailblazers — the likes of Nova Perris the Olympian, Josie Farrer MLA Kimberley, Carol Martin MLA Kimberley — to enrich our relationships and to learn about their strengths in leadership,” Bev says.

Oxfam partnered with Indigenous-led organisation Aarnja to stage the gathering, encouraging women from the Kimberley region to engage with the political system and inspire positive change in their communities.

Straight Talk taught us how to make a difference in the community, put Aboriginal people first, act and lead with integrity, provide and support leadership, and work together to build strong relationships, with a focus on empowerment and enabling … it has made me more strong.”

— Bev Walley, Kununurra

And Bev’s new leadership skills are already paying off. Within months of attending Straight Talk, she was appointed as Chairperson of Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Services, a community-controlled Aboriginal health service for Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley region. This proud, straight-talking woman is leading her community, headfirst, to a strong and healthy future.

The next annual Straight Talk National Summit will be held in Canberra in November 2018, bringing together more than 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from around Australia. Follow the Straight Talk Facebook page for more details.

All photos by Michael Jalaru Torres /OxfamAUS