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When opportunity knocked,

Rarrtjiwuy nominated herself

for a board position and was

unanimously elected chair—the

youngest person, and only female,

to do so. She now juggles that role

with her position at Miwatj, and

spearheads other key community

social issues.

Recently Rarrtjiwuy has advocated

at state level in favour of a banned

drinkers register to operate in

licensed takeaway outlets, to curb

the pervasive social destruction

caused by alcohol. Community

elders urged her to step forward

for this. She also had a very

personal motivation:

My own family members have

passed away, ended up in

prison, or had an unhappy

life because of alcohol. That’s

had a ripple effect on me

and all the rest of my family.

That’s why the values that I

work towards are my values

and I’m not afraid to share

them. That’s why I advocate

for alcohol permit restrictions

and for understanding of

domestic violence.

I spoke about this on the

news; I said we have a great

permit system but one of the

things I continue to see is our

families crawling out of the

pubs, being allowed to be

that drunk that they go back

and harass their families or

disturb their children who are

trying to sleep.

This is an issue I want to deal

with. If I’m passionate about

something, I’ll step up and be

part of that.

Rarrtjiwuy is setting up a Regional

Young Leaders Program, inspired

by Jawun’s Emerging Leaders

program. She is determined to see

it become a success and meet a

real need in her region:

I want this to be a program

that supports young people

build their confidence,

enabling them to be on

committees and boards

and understanding why

it’s important to do that. In

this region not many young

people sit on boards and

committees. They need to

use their full potential and

participate at a full capacity.

Rarrtjiwuy considers herself an

educator more than a leader,

and thinks the older leaders

who inspired her were primarily

educators as well:

Throughout all my roles, I’ve

always had an education

role—whether educating

about Yol


u and their society

and culture and language—or

educating Yol


u about things

like policies and procedures

and professional realities

that a lot of people take for

granted. It doesn’t matter

what it is I do, it’s always

about education. I feel

like the people who raised

me and went on to be my

leaders, that’s all they were

doing, trying to educate

people on how to live in this

world of two cultures, how to

walk in both worlds and use

that to our advantage.

There are times when Rarrtjiwuy

finds leadership a heavy burden:

Once you step into a

leadership role there’s a high

expectation on you, not just

from your organisation but

from your community as well.

She stays in touch with her fellow

2015–16 Emerging Leaders and is

part of Jawun’s Stories of Female

Leadership network that brings

together corporate and Indigenous

female leaders (see Section 1.4).

Underscoring how challenging a

demanding leadership role can be,

Rarrtjiwuy considers both these

networks ‘a treat’ for the way they

energise and nurture her.

Not yet 30 years old, Rarrtjiwuy

has achieved an exceptional

level of influence and trust in her

community, among her peers and

in the eyes of traditional elders.

She sees it simply as having a

voice and respecting customary

values of leadership:

When I think of the values of

those old leaders, it would

be about not being afraid to

say what you feel. It’s about

having a voice, opening your

mouth and saying, ‘This is not

what I think is right’.

Talking about your values,

whether in personal or

professional contexts, is

important. Waiting around

for Superman to come, it’s

never going to happen. That’s

one thing I learned from the

elders we have here, that if

you wait for a leader, they’re

never going to come. If you

don’t see a leader in front of

you, then you need to step up

into that position.

Rarrtjiwuy believes she was

born into the responsibilities she’s

taken on:

My name means ‘from afar’.

Literally it refers to an actual

place just north-west of

Gove, near a long island that

I’ve only flown over, but the

meaning is just somewhere

far away. Old people have

a sense of what’s the right

name. I’ve reflected on my

name a million times and I’m

pretty sure they gave it to me

because they thought I’d have

to go far.