The First Ladies

Four notable First Nations women nominate four emerging women of influence.

By Emily J. Brooks


Four notable First Nations women nominate four emerging women of influence.

By Emily J. Brooks

On Thursday evening, four First Nations women spoke to Today entertainment reporter and proud Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman, Brooke Boney, about intersectional feminism and how we can all be more inclusive on International Women’s Day.

The women who sat on the panel were each nominated by another notable First Nations woman. They were chosen because of the important work they are doing to lift up Indigenous people and improve the lives of those around them.

The event was held by Future Women x Witchery to move the discussion forward, highlight new names, and shine a light on more inclusive conversations – even if they are difficult to have. 

Here are the women whose voices had the mic last Thursday, and whose work is being noticed more and more everyday. Read on, and pay attention.

Hosted by Brooke Boney

Brooke Boney is Today’s Entertainment Reporter and a proud Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman. With a background in political journalism, having previously worked for National Indigenous Television (NITV), SBS and the ABC, she was most recently Triple J’s weekday morning news presenter. Towards the end of her newsreading stint on Triple J, Boney garnered a lot of interest after opening her bulletins by saying ‘Yaama’ – the word for “hello” in Gamilaroi, the Indigenous language of Northern NSW. Growing up in Muswellbrook in the NSW Hunter Region with her mum and five younger brothers and sisters, Boney has been at the forefront of youth culture since she began working in media in 2010, and has written a lot about what it’s like to be an Aboriginal person in Australia.

On Thursday night, as the host for the evening, Boney said: I often think about the people who are more privileged than me, but more often than that, I try to think about the women whose lives are a lot harder than mine. So women in communities, women who are suffering in violent relationships, women who have disabilities, women who weren’t born as women, and quite often the statistics around their lives… they’re much worse for them. If that’s one takeaway from the discussion, I would urge all of you to consider how we include women who aren’t like us.

Brooke wears:
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Amy Thunig

Gamilaroi woman, Amy Thunig, is an academic in the School of Educational Studies at Macquarie University, PhD candidate writing her thesis on why sovereign women choose academia, and an occasional freelance writer. She founded and hosts the podcast ‘Blacademia: a podcast of yarns with First Nations academics’, while also being a mother and partner. If that wasn’t enough of a juggle, she has also done a powerful TED Talk.

On Thursday night, Thunig said: “There is just way more black excellence than you can probably comprehend, given the constant negative messaging that you are bombarded with in politics and media, and I would just encourage people to go looking for it.”

Nominated by: Industry Professor at Jumbunna Institute of Education and Research at UTS, Nareen Young: “Amy combines her strong community commitment with a career in the University sector and a social media presence that is influential. Her podcast Blacademia is innovative and community building. She is articulate, forthright and builds strong networks with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. These are all attributes that will stand her in good stead in the years ahead.” 

Amy wears:
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Shoes, Amy’s own


Marlee Silva

Marlee Silva is a 24-year-old Gamilaroi and Dunghutti storyteller. She is the Co-Founder of the Indigenous Female Empowerment Movement @tiddas4tiddas, which exists as an Instagram page and podcast of the same name. Marlee is also an author, with her debut book ‘My Tidda, My Sister’ set to be released in September 2020. 

On Thursday night, Silva said: “My mindset always is that we are only three percent of the population, and if we have any hope in really making genuine, sustainable change and coming to a point where we are on an equal playing field to build a brighter, more amazing Australia for all, we need the other 97 percent.”

Nominated by: Author Anita Heiss: “Marlee Silva has the passion of youth but a sense of leadership and focus of a woman many years her senior. I first learned of her while editing her words for Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, and now I praise her commitment to amplifying the success and journeys of other First Nations women via Tiddas4Tiddas.”

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Shannan Dodson

Shannan Dodson is a Yawuru woman born in Katherine in the Northern Territory and currently lives in Sydney, NSW. Shannan has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for 15 years and is a strategic communications and engagement specialist. She is currently a consultant and before that was the Communications Manager for the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement) Office at the University of Technology Sydney.

Shannan is a National NAIDOC Committee member and the Indigenous Affairs Advisor for Media Diversity Australia which seeks to promote balanced representation in Australian media that more accurately reflects the Australian community. She is also on the SBS Community Advisory Committee and is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee member for RUOK?. She is a regular contributor to NITV, the ABC, Ten Daily and The Guardian. Shannan is passionate about First Nations’ rights and understanding mental health issues, particularly intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

On Thursday night, Dodson said: “We don’t do this as a job or as a career. It’s much more than that. This is about our livelihood. It’s about our families and communities and wanting to create a future that is better for them. So you’re not just going to this 9-5 job. You’re working as a form of survival… The truths of what we face as a collective community is really stark and it can be quite difficult to be faced with that everyday.”

Nominated by: Linda Burney MP: “I have known Shannan and her family since she was very little girl. Shannan is bright and committed to First Australian issues as well as nation building efforts. She is a wonderful communicator and understands and demonstrates the values of respect, humbleness and grace.”

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Leilani Bin-Juda

Leilani Bin-Juda was recently appointed as the first female CEO of the Torres Strait Regional Authority. Her extensive career in the Australian Public Service spans 24 years and in 2019, she was awarded a Public Service Medal for her work on promoting the inclusion of Indigenous heritage in Australia’s cultural and foreign policies Leilani is deeply committed to empowering women, especially regarding financial freedom and career development pathways.

On Thursday night, Bin-Juda said: “As women, I think we are natural caregivers, and our passion for the community is because the decisions we make affect the next three generations. So our decisions are not just for today, or tomorrow, they are enduring.

Nominated by: Director of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation Emily Hill: “I nominated Leilani because she is the embodiment of strong female Indigenous leadership – she’s fearless and passionate, but she’s also a quiet achiever. So I nominated her in order to provide her with a platform to share her story and learn from people outside the public sector.”

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Pants and top, Leilani’s own




Creative Director: Patti Andrews
Photographer: James Greig
Hair and Make Up: Jasmin Lo and Linda Thi
Location: Crown Residences at One Barangaroo Display Suite