Rachael Cavanagh was a part of this years Oxfam Straight Talk program in Canberra.
Rachael Cavanagh was a part of this years Oxfam Straight Talk program in Canberra. Caitlan Charles

Indigenous woman Rachael Cavanagh's political ambition

RACHAEL Cavangah has always been politically minded and recently she had the opportunity to sink her teeth into the political world as part of Oxfam's Straight Talk program.

In November the Minyungbal woman was one of 80 Aboriginal women from all over the country invited to Parliament House in Canberra to talk to politicians and discuss issues facing their communities and how they can play a role in Australian politics.

"I really wanted to get involved because I've always been political in everything that I do," Ms Cavanagh said. "Even at seven years of age I was saying that the water was going to rise but no one would listen to me.

"I've been an activist with environmental issues, animals, women's rights and indigenous affairs my whole life and the older I get the more educated I become and those doors into politics and policy, governance and leadership keep opening.

"It's something I've always been interested in but with this trip away I was either going to go 'yes, this is it' or 'no, it's not'."

And for Ms Cavangah, , who lives in Grafton, her trip cemented a desire to move into politics.

A big focus of Straight Talk was to discuss how Aboriginal people could become more involved in politics.

"We spoke about everything to do with politics from the very basics of voting and how that works to the actual system and the process behind it," she said.

"It was interesting to see how that works, so they really broke it down into what it means if you vote above the line, below the line and all of that, and the party politics.

"But overall it was about women in leadership and that cultural aspect of what it means to be an aboriginal woman leading into those leadership and governance-type roles.

"We're only two percent of the population and we don't have a very high number of Aboriginal people or Torres Straight Islander people voting.

"We as Aboriginal people and Torres Straight Islander people have what's called black politics, and the joke is that if you can survive black politics then mainstream politics is easy.

"We've got a lot of different hurdles that we deal with in our community that really doesn't mean anything to anyone else, so we've got to look at our cultural rights and what culture means in the evolving society that we have today."

Ms Cavangah said one of the most interesting things she learnt from talking to the other women in the program was how similar the issues were in every community.

"As we all started talking, it was so familiar," she said. "It was youth suicide, suicide in general, housing and its affordability, and having to fight just to be.

"There is nothing there to support people moving on from that. How do we create economic sustainable communities? How do we create infrastructure so our mob doesn't have to move away?"

Ms Cavangah is heading to university next year to study Professional Political Practice at Deakin University to prepare for a role in politics.

She added that she was still deciding how she would move into politics, saying that she may put her hand up for the Senate election in two years or try to move into an advisory position.



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