I'm driven by a strong belief in racial and gender equality, and the outcome of the federal election tells me I'm not alone.
It marked a milestone for First Nations people. Just 60 years ago, on May 21, 1962, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were finally given the option to enrol to vote in federal elections.
And on this year's anniversary of that historic event, Australia went to the polls, electing a record number of First Nations people to Parliament - including Linda Burney, who will be the first Aboriginal woman appointed as minister for Indigenous Affairs.
What a moment in history. First Nations voices from across the political spectrum have been elevated in record numbers in an arena where historically we were not welcome.
This is representation. This is change. This is progress.
And there's so much more to do.
I am a proud Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri man, born and bred in South Australia. I am the chief executive of Kornar Winmil Yunti (KWY) Aboriginal Corporation. I've spent my working life dedicated to the empowerment and safety of Aboriginal children, young people, families, and communities.
I am also an ambassador for Our Watch - the national leader in the prevention of violence against women and their children. Together, we're working towards an Australia where all women and their children live free from all forms of violence.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women face multiple levels of systemic disadvantage: there's an increased risk of violence, driven by gender and racial discrimination, as well as the ongoing effects of colonisation and oppression.
So much of our focus in recent years has been on the COVID pandemic, and rightly so, but I'm here to tell you that Australia is in the grips of an epidemic. I've witnessed it first-hand. It's an epidemic of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. The problem is, if it's not making front-page news (and it rarely does), you don't see it.
Let's look at the statistics. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are more than three times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women. They are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence, and 11 times more likely to die from the assault. Three in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a male intimate partner.
Those are the numbers. But these are women, children and families, and we owe them a safer and more equal future.
Through my work at KWY, we offer men, women and children a safe space and culturally appropriate services to break the cycle of family violence. Cultural safety is key. To earn the trust of these communities, cultural respect, sensitivity and self-determination are at the heart of everything we do.
One thing I've learnt through my work is that change is possible. Each day I see harrowing inequality and trauma - both recent and intergenerational - but every day I am struck by people's capacity for change, if they are willing.
Which is why prevention must be our goal. We can, and must, stop violence before it starts.
When we're talking about driving change and changing lives, it's about the big picture and the small moments. As individuals, we make choices daily and throughout our lives. Respect is a choice. Confronting our own beliefs and behaviours is a choice. Each one of us needs to step up and call out racism and sexism. These are small but powerful moments for change.
But as individuals, we also need the backing of big-picture structural change. Governments, workplaces, sporting organisations and schools all have a role to play in embedding gender equality, because the evidence is clear: when women are more equal, they are safer.
The theme of this year's Reconciliation Week is "Be Brave. Make Change." That means not just talking about, but acting on the endemic levels of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children. And it's not just women who should demand better from other men, it's on men to demand better from other men. And we shouldn't label it "brave" - it should just be what we do.
To see so many First Nations people elected - in particular, so many women - speaks to the possibility of generational change.
We can stop violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women before it starts, and the first step is equality.
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