The First Nations women that we’re learning from this NAIDOC week

This year, the NAIDOC week theme is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! First Nations women have been doing this for their communities, culture and Country for generations.  


Now it’s our turn to listen and learn from the oldest living culture on earth in order to build a better tomorrow. 

Here are three of the First Nations women that we’re learning from this NAIDOC week:   

Jana Stewart:  

“To me it’s an incredibly powerful message to lots of other young Aboriginal women and children who can see themselves reflected in our national parliament, that this is a place that you can aspire to be.”  

Jana Stewart was elected as the Labor Party’s first Victorian Aboriginal Senator in April. As a Muthi Muthi and Wamba-Wamba woman this made her the youngest Aboriginal woman to serve in federal parliament. Previously, Stewart worked as a family therapist and brings with her a focus on family welfare issues, including domestic violence against Aboriginal women and the increasing number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care. 

After this year’s election, there are now 10 First Nations people in Australia’s federal parliament. While this is a record number, we’ve still got a long way to go for equal representation.  

 ActionAid is standing in solidarity with First Nations movements to support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the constitution.  

Tishiko King: 

“People have misunderstood what climate action is all about. It’s not just about saving nature. It’s about saving the people because we’re connected to Country.” 

Tishiko King is a Kulkalaig woman from Masig Island, in the Torres Strait Islands. After studying Ocean Sciences on the Gold Coast, King became a dedicated climate activist involved with grassroots environmental groups and rallies both in Australia and overseas. 

Last year, King was the Australian Delegate at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, where she represented the Torres Strait Island organization, Our Islands Our Home.  

Through her climate activism, Tishiko King amalgamates environmental justice with her advocacy for First Nations rights and reminds us of the need to centre First Nations perspectives, and young women’s perspectives in our approaches to climate justice. 

Karla Dickens: 

“Breaking silence and speaking the truth – whether the speaking is verbal or visual – is a political act. When others identify, hear and connect with that it becomes a political action.” 

You may recognize Karla from the winning portrait of this year’s Archibald prize, Moby Dickens, created by Dunghutti artist, Blak Douglas. Karla is a Wiradjuri woman and an artist herself, who addresses gender, race, sexuality and issues of intersectionality through her practice.  

Art provides Dickens with a certain level of safety to discuss notions of discrimination, racism and abuse. Her work is both a celebration of the enduring strength of First Nations women and a stark reminder of the urgent need for radical change.  

It’s crucial that in our work for women’s rights and climate justice, we learn from and build upon the wisdom, knowledge and custodianship passed down from First Nations peoples for over sixty-five thousand years. 

It is time to Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!