National Reconciliation Week: Celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women

May 27, 2019

National Reconciliation Week

Today marks Reconciliation Day kicking off National Reconciliation Week with this year’s theme being “grounded in truth, walk together with courage.”

At the heart of reconciliation is the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Australian community.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australia’s colonial history is characterised by devastating land dispossession, violence and racism. However, over the last 50 years many significant steps towards reconciliation have been taken.

Reconciliation is an ongoing journey that reminds us that while generations of Australians have fought hard for change, future gains are likely to take just as much effort.

What is National Reconciliation Week?

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

NRW started as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993 and was supported by Australia’s major religious groups. The first NRW was launched in 1996 by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and in 2000, Reconciliation Australia was established to continue providing national leadership on reconciliation.

Each year National Reconciliation Week is celebrated from 27 May to 3 June which aims to reflect on and improve the relationship between Australians, while celebrating a shared history. Two significant milestones are commemorated in the reconciliation journey including the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision.

NRW is celebrated by businesses, schools and early learning services, organisations and individuals Australia-wide. There are many NRW events that are held each year where you can attend or register your own. For more information on NRW events click here.

To celebrate National Reconciliation Week, we wanted to commemorate inspirational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in our community, to celebrate their wonderful achievements.

Here are just a few of the many inspirational Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander women:     

Pearl Gibbs
Pearl Gibbs (1901-1983)










Pearl was an Indigenous activist and was one of the most prominent female activists within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander movement in the early 20th century. Being a member for the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), she was involved in various protests such as the 1938 Day of Mourning. She tirelessly supported and advocated for Indigenous people and in the 1930’s helped run camps to support unemployed Aboriginal workers. In 1941, she was the first Aboriginal woman to make a radio broadcast.

Gibbs stayed politically active until the 70s where she built valuable connections between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. She also forged important links between the Aboriginal movement and other progressive political groups, notably the women’s movement.  

 Evelyn Scott
Evelyn Scott (1935- 2017)








Dr Evelyn Ruth Scott was an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social activist and educator. She started her social justice career when she served on the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League during the 60s. Dr Scott was a driver of the 1967 referendum, which was a momentous turning point in Australian history where discriminatory references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was removed in the Australian Constitution. In 1973, she became the first General-Secretary of the Indigenous-led Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

In the 90s, Evelyn was the governing head of the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Sadly, Evelyn passed away in 2017 at the age of 81.

Nova Peris
Nova Peris (1971 – )












Nova Peris is an Aboriginal athlete and activist, who was a representative in the Australian Women’s Hockey in the 1996 Olympics. She became the first Aboriginal woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Peris proved to be a multi talented sporting star when she switched from hockey to athletics, where she won another medal in 1997.

In 2013, Nova decided to have a change in career where she entered into politics after being invited by Julia Gillard to join the Australian Labor Party, becoming a candidate for the Senate. She was then elected to the Federal Government, making her the first Indigenous woman to be elected into the national parliament. She remained in parliament until 2016.

Bronwyn Bancroft
Bronwyn Bancroft (1958 – )










Bronwyn Bancroft is an Aboriginal artist and was the first Australian fashion designer ever to be invited to showcase her designs in Paris. She promoted other Aboriginal artworks when she opened a fabric store in 1985, showcasing many other Aboriginal artist-made materials.

In 1987, Bronwyn was one of 10 urban artists who founded the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative. She served twice on the board of the National Gallery of Australia during the 1990s and then went on to become the Chair of the Visual Arts Board for the NSW Ministry for the Arts.

Her current goals include becoming the director of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to increase senior high school and university admission rates for Indigenous students.

Samantha Harris
Samantha Harris (1990 – )










Samantha Harris is an Aboriginal fashion model from the Dunghutti tribe. She started her career at a beauty pageant at the age of five. When she was only 11, she was nominated by Dolly Magazine’s model workshop as the ‘Model Most Likely to Succeed.’ In 2004 at the age of 13 she signed her first modelling contract with Chic Model Management.

Samantha hopes to become an ambassador for the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in Sydney.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley (1951 - )
Evonne Goolagong Cawley (1951 – )










Evonne is the first Aboriginal to win Wimbledon (1971) and during this decade she was considered one of the world’s most successful tennis players.

Evonne has been awarded Australian of the year and Australian Sportsman of the Year, where she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport Rhode Island in 1988. You will notice that back in the 70s the award was still named Sportsman!

Since 2005, Evonne has run the Goolagong National Development Camp for Indigenous girls and boys. Using tennis as a vehicle to promote better health, education and employment, the program has awarded school scholarships, produced university scholars, tennis players, coaches and sports administrators.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.