By Jill Exon, Health Promotion Officer


Jill at Coogee Beach

As I reflect on the last couple of weeks of 2018 NAIDOC celebrations, I feel honoured to have represented Women’s Health East (WHE) at a number of key events across the eastern metropolitan region (EMR), in addition to attending a local community event with my family. This year’s national NAIDOC theme, Because of her, we can!, resonated with me on both a professional and personal level, and I’m excited to share the highlights.  

On 5 July, I joined around 100 people across the east for a community NAIDOC afternoon tea held at the Memo Hall in Healesville. The event was hosted by Healesville Indigenous Community Services Association (HICSA), Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service, Women’s Health East, Yarra Ranges Council and Eastern Community Legal Centre. The room was alive with speakers and images of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have paved the way in significant ways – both big and small. Among them, Miranda Madgwick (Chair of HICSA and founding member) spoke about Anne Jenkins and her significant contributions to the community as a founding member and CEO of HICSA.

On Sunday 8 July I took my two boys (aged 2 and 4) along to the Mullum Mullum NAIDOC Family Day. This was a fabulous opportunity for families to get involved. There were real-life reptiles and the chance to decorate your very own (working!) boomerang. Needless to say that I had two very excited boys, and even a bit of fun myself!

I also had the privilege of attending Day 2 of the national NAIDOC Conference in Sydney which included honouring and hearing from some of our First Nation women role-models, trailblazers and courageous leaders. There were so many stand-out speakers. Some of my personal favourites included: Linda Burney MP, Shelley Reys AO, Leila Gurruwiwi and our very own Melbourne based, Karen Milward. These women shared their own journeys to positions of leadership, whilst bringing a spotlight to the women – the mothers, aunties, sisters, grandmothers, elders and other First Nation women and leaders – who have walked before and inspired them to achieve what they have today.

In topping off a jam-packed week, WHE was invited to attend the EMR NAIDOC Ball. Thank you HICSA! Putting on my frock and heels, I joined in for more local celebrations MC’ed by HICSA’s Community Engagement Worker, Nikki Madgwick. What a brilliant night this was, shared with so many local leaders, partners and community members! A key highlight was when Aunty Janet Turpie-Johnstone presented Aunty Kim Wandin with an Elders Award. Kim was recognised as someone who is generous in sharing her culture as an artist and through schools, cultural days and community events.

From a personal perspective, I have found the week’s events both moving and incredibly inspiring.  This year’s theme, ‘Because of her, we can!’ was indeed celebrated well, honouring the women who are often the unsung heroes. So in a final reflection, I am so grateful to our First Nation women, who, as Leila Gurruwiwi noted: “built the bridges that [we] walk on today.”

As WHE continues to work toward equality, empowerment, health and wellbeing for all women, we recognise the resilience, strength and hard work of the First Nation women who have inspired and paved the way. Thank you! 

Nikki Madgwick – MC at Eastern Metropolitan Region Ball

Karen Milward – Aboriginal Consultant

Local friends at the NAIDOC conference. Aunty Janet Turpie-Johnstone and Anne Jenkins, founding member and CEO of HICSA