NACCHO good news story: Global campaigner represents Indigenous voices

Ms Nayuka Gorrie - UNPFII - Youth delegate

Ms Gorrie was chosen to represent Indigenous youth at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held at the UN headquarters in New York in May.

Gabrielle Murphy Article – The Age

At 22, Nayuka Gorrie is a savvy but certainly not weary global campaigner for Indigenous and environmental rights. Having already attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference last November as an Indigenous representative of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Ms Gorrie was again chosen to represent Indigenous youth, this time at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held at the UN headquarters in New York in May.

With a mandate to discuss Indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights, the UNPFII representation has given Ms Gorrie a unique opportunity, at the highest levels, to focus her attention on two main areas of interest for her – the rights of Indigenous people and the environment.

“I feel very honoured to have been given this opportunity,” says Ms Gorrie, “particularly at such an interesting time for young Aboriginal people when they actually make up a disproportionate majority of the Indigenous Australian population overall.

“And while I recognise that the honour comes with quite a heavy burden of responsibility, it’s a responsibility I’m happy to embrace. In our culture it’s not common or encouraged for people to talk themselves up and despite how hard this is to do, I think it’s important to aim for the best.”

Nayuka Gorrie grew up in Brisbane and credits her mother’s determination for her children to study, work hard and succeed. As a descendent of the Kurnai and Gunditjmara clans from Lake Tyers on her grandfather’s side, the Gunditjmara people from Lake Condah on her grandmother’s, and with connections to the Wurundjeri and Yorta Yorta people, Ms Gorrie comes from strong and proud traditions, and happily follows in their footsteps.

After completing her secondary education in Brisbane, Ms Gorrie chose to come to Melbourne for university.

“I chose Melbourne because of its reputation,” Ms Gorrie says. “I’ve had so many opportunities by virtue of being at this University and I would have been mad not to have made the most of them.”

These opportunities have included a place with the Career Trackers Indigenous Internship Program. Career Trackers is a national not-for-profit organisation that works with Indigenous university students and private sector companies to create career pathways through structured internship programs.

Through the program, Ms Gorrie has worked during her winter and summer breaks with Australia Post and, as part of a legal team involved in five structured programs including work place relations, acquisitions and mergers, workplace contracts, competition and consumer law, and regulatory requirements.

“I entered the program in first year,” says Ms Gorrie, “and I absolutely love it.

“I’ve become really interested in regulatory affairs, and the multilateral and bilateral agreements corporate Australia has with different countries, so being in a work environment where I am able to apply these interests to meeting defined objectives and making them work in a business sense has been stimulating, challenging and rewarding.”

On a national level, Ms Gorrie has also been involved throughout her undergraduate studies in the Congress Youth Forum of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the independent and representative post-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. In this arena Ms Gorrie has represented Victoria on the Congress’s Youth Committee and in this capacity attended the 2012 annual delegates’ meeting held in Alice Springs in September.

“All these experiences have given me access to great Indigenous leadership from influential people like Les Malezer who played such an important role in the formulation and ultimate declaration of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, to mention but one of the elders I have been privileged to learn from and meet,” Ms Gorrie says.

“It’s just amazing to sit back and realise I’ve had the opportunity to represent my people, especially the young people, to get to say something at the United Nations, and have that considered. Crazy!”

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