When you drive across the border into the Australian Capital Territory, a very big sign informs you that you are entering Ngunnawal country. Pay a visit to the act.gov.au website and you will be told that "We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people". Every day, at the beginning of business in the ACT Legislative Assembly, acknowledgment of Ngunnawal country is read in language.
Despite these gestures, the inequalities that exist between the ACT's Aboriginal community and white society are a constant. There is still no treaty with the Ngunnawal nation, and rates of Aboriginal incarceration, mortality and chronic illness are appalling when compared to those of non-Aboriginal people in the ACT.
No member of the Ngunnawal nation has ever sat in the ACT Legislative Assembly, or even run for election. In the history of the ACT Legislative Assembly, only two Aboriginal people have run for election, and just one Aboriginal person, Dr Chris Bourke, has ever been elected.
The recent ACT elections produced the predictable wave of Anglo candidates. With the exception of a couple of members, the current Legislative Assembly is overwhelmingly white, and the next one will be similar.
Faced with this reality of white political hegemony, you could forgive young Aboriginal people for wondering if there is any point in even trying to get involved in ACT politics.
But Bradley Mapiva-Brown, the founder and chair of the United Ngunnawal Youth Council, is up for the challenge. Mapiva-Brown's parents and grandparents grew up on reservations, unable to practise their culture. He speaks of the trans-generational trauma that has been handed down.
"I draw my strength from the pain that my grandmother and my mother have gone through," he says. "We are a very resilient people."
He says racism plays a role in why Aboriginal people have been left out of the ACT election process.
"Sometimes it can feel a bit tokenistic, like you're just there to tick a box," he says. "Government needs to see the benefit of having First Nations people involved in the process and what we can actually bring to the table."
Mapiva-Brown cites the recent bushfire catastrophe as a perfect example of an area in which the involvement of Aboriginal land management could have benefited the community.
"If government had seen the benefit of introducing Aboriginal practices a long time ago, we wouldn't be where we are today," he says.
The council's co-founder, Justine Brown, says one of the hurdles for young Aboriginal people who aspire to political ambition is resistance from their elders. Despite this, she believes it is essential to heed their advice.
"You have to listen to your elders because that is what gives you the cultural ammunition to step into these biased platforms and be heard," she says. "It can be hard, but I carry myself with honour and pride, as I am carrying my grandfather's legacy".
Brown's grandfather lived in Yass, from where the government removed many Indigenous families in the '50s. He refused to go. He went down to the town hall and challenged the mayor to a fist fight.
The mayor took favourably to his moxie and relented, allowing his family to stay.
It is this fighting spirit that inspires Brown on her journey. She may not be challenging any mayors to fist fights, but the modern day version requires the same conviction.
Brown has political aspirations, but she believes she must first become a leader at the grassroots level. Regarding the profuse whiteness of the candidates in the recent ACT election, she is resolute.
"It makes me realise I have to work harder. How can I improve myself so that my people are recognised?" she says.
This sense of self-improvement in the face of adversity is a common thread in the United Ngunnawal Youth Council. There is an undeniable sense of resilience and commitment to changing the status quo in order to achieve representation.
Bradley Mapiva-Brown sees a future in which Ngunnawal people are able to govern in their own interest.
"At the moment, government makes decisions for my people. I would like to see Ngunnawal people making decisions about things that affect them," he says. "At the end of the day, we're not Australian people. We're Aboriginal people. We have our own identity, our own practices and our own protocols".
Both Justine Brown and Bradley Mapiva-Brown describe the reality of walking in two worlds. In their nine-to-five jobs, they walk in the white world, but 24/7 they walk as Aboriginals, proud representatives of the Ngunnawal nation.
"We're trying to change the stigma that has been placed on us for 250 years," says Brown.
Mapiva-Brown is hopeful.
"I may not be Prime Minister one day, but maybe my child will," he says.
- Matt Dooley is an Australian writer and journalist.