Because of her, we can

Haidee Allan, a Bupa intern, writes about social change and gender equality in Australia. At the start of Naidoc week, Haidee speaks to one of her role models, Dr Jackie Huggins about those who inspired her.

Written by Haidee Allan

“Education and empowering our young Indigenous women, will ensure they become our leaders of tomorrow," - Dr Jackie Huggins

Indigenous women within Australia have been the backbone of Aboriginal culture and its survival throughout history.

They are our mothers, our elders, our grandmothers, our aunties, our sisters and our daughters.

“Because of her, we can!” is theme for the 2018 NAIDOC week celebrations nationally. It is the first time in over 40 years of celebrating NAIDOC where women have been the central theme. 

In our current political climate, there is need for social change and gender equality within Australia.

One Indigenous female leader, who is leading the way for our people within this space, is Dr Jackie Huggins. Dr Huggins is a proud Bidjara (central Queensland) and Birri-Gubba Juru (North Queensland) woman who has worked tirelessly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for over thirty years.

More recently Dr Huggins has been the co-chairperson for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Dr Huggins delivered an intervention at the United Nations in New York on April 19 during the 17th Session of the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Dr Huggins believes in the power of education and the places it will take you. She is an Indigenous Australian author, historian and Aboriginal rights activist who for many years has fought for Indigenous rights and to rectify the wrongs of histories past.

She attributes her success to having three key Indigenous mentors who have helped shape and pave the way for her strive for our equality. Her mother, Freedom Rider Charles Perkins and her dear friend, the late Dr Evelyn Scott.

The key characteristics of these three leaders helps guide Dr Huggins to strive for a greater political will to achieve Indigenous success. “Mentors are there the ones who have done the hard yards, unpack their wisdom” Dr Huggins shares with me the importance for our young Indigenous youth to have a mentor figures they look up to.

Dr Evelyn Scott holds a special place not only within Dr Huggins' heart but Bupa’s too, as she spent her final years at our Mt Sheridan Bupa care home.

Dr Huggins describes Dr Scott as, “a gracious woman, with such passion” -the two worked together on the ‘Bringing home report’ back in 2000, in which six recommendations were made.

To this day sadly, only one of those recommendations has been achieved.

To coincided with the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Bupa will be launching a scholarship next month in which I worked on creating earlier this year in the memory of the Late Dr Scott.

A scholarship of $10,000 will be awarded each year to an Indigenous to a female university student who embodies Evelyn’s will and determination for change.

This scholarship will not only help the lucky student who it’s awarded to but also her community who will feel the positive influence of seeing a student kicking goals and most importantly completing a bachelor. Dr Huggins says, “It’s great to see Bupa fostering Indigenous females and being a leader in change, Evelyn would have loved to see it”

Each year around the time of NAIDOC we start to articulate more and more ideas of what we can do not only as individuals but as originations to ‘Close the Gap’?

I asked Dr Huggins how Bupa can improve within this space, as something she addressed to the UN earlier this year was Indigenous Australians are still nearly 10 years behind within there life expectancy compared to non- Indigenous Australians within our country.

“Bupa could look at ways they tackle Indigenous health issues and bring a more vocal approach drawing attention to the areas in which our community needs knowledge on” she also stresses the importance of Bupa working with the health minister to make private health insurance more accessible for our people. This would help lead the way and help bridge the health gap within Indigenous communities.

To go with the theme of this years NAIDOC I also asked Dr Huggins what her key advice for our young who need some inspiration to start their own educational journey “from your heart with integrity and passion and you’ll achieve great things”.Dr Huggins represents the essence of this year’s NAIDOC weeks focus “Because of her, we can”.

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