Tamati Smith, Lucy Ryan, Rhiannon Hodder, Ziggy Smith, Kadison King, Leighton King and Christopher King. Background artwork by Kyra Johnson from Yamaji Art.

Young Mid West & Gascoyne Indigenous go-getters on Reconciliation Week, role models and unity

Main Image: Tamati Smith, Lucy Ryan, Rhiannon Hodder, Ziggy Smith, Kadison King, Leighton King and Christopher King. Background artwork by Kyra Johnson from Yamaji Art.

Lisa Favazzo & Phoebe PinMidwest Times

If there’s anybody who knows what it means to act on reconciliation, it’s Australia’s young First Nations people. During Reconciliation Week, Lisa Favazzo and Phoebe Pin caught up with five young Aboriginal go-getters in the Mid West and Gascoyne, who are working hard to make their mark on their families and communities — all before their 40th birthdays.

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Kadisen King, Christopher King and their son Leighton King, 1.
Camera IconKadisen King, Christopher King and their son Leighton King, 1. Credit: Supplied

Kadison King

Yugunga Nya woman Kadison King, 25, just opened a new business in Lloyd’s Plaza in Meekatharra, and she dedicated it to her little boy.

What’s a big goal you recently hit?

I have recently started my own business in my home town of Meekatharra. My partner Chris and I have opened a cafe restaurant, called Leighton's Cafe named after our one-year-old son. Chris and I share a

passion for cooking and love sharing our food with family and friends. This has been a dream of mine for years now and to finally see it happen is just so fulfilling and rewarding. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my family, especially my parents.

What motivates you to do what you do?

Everything I do, I do for my son Leighton. I am giving him the best start in life and want him to see that there is so much to experience. I also hope that I can inspire other young people in my community to have a go and to pursue their own passions fearlessly.

What does Reconciliation Week mean to you?

Reconciliation Week to me is about recognising where we come from as a country. Recognising that there is a lot more

to the history of our land and the people than there is often spoken about.

It’s about acknowledging what our people went through and seeing what our people still deal with today to make changes for a better future for our children.

What more needs to be done to promote unity in your community?

We need to utilise the knowledge and wisdom of our elders and work together to address issues within the community. Also celebrating the wins that our community has, and the positive outcomes of these wins, can unify our community in a productive way.

Who do you look up to in your community?

My mother and grandmother Mavis are my biggest inspirations. My grandmother passed away 12 years ago but she’s still a huge source of my energy and will to succeed, even today. My mother is a feisty little go-

getter. She lets nothing stop her especially when it comes to being an advocate or

supporter of the kids in our community. I hope that some day I too can not only be a role model but also a support person for the young people in my community.

Shire of Carnarvon youth workers Lucy Ryan and Ziggy Smith
Camera IconShire of Carnarvon youth workers Lucy Ryan and Ziggy Smith

Lucy Ryan

Yamatji/Wajarri woman and Shire of Carnarvon youth worker Lucy Ryan, 38, is a mentor and confidant for young people.

What’s a big goal you recently hit?

Becoming a nana to my first grandchild, who is only six months.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I became a youth worker (at the MAYU-MIA Youth Hub) to be there for our Indigenous kids that need support during tough times and be able to mentor them and teach them how to be a good person in life.

What does Reconciliation Week mean to you?

Reconciliation Week to me means we are not alone, and we can join together to celebrate our life as being Indigenous.

Who do you look up to in your community?

I look up to my mum because she supports me at making a difference in my community.

What more needs to be done to promote unity in your community?

More opportunities for parents to come together with their children and pass down generational stories and beliefs.

Ziggy Smith

Yamatji woman Ziggy Smith, 23, is passionate about making a difference as a youth worker with the Shire of Carnarvon.

What’s a big goal you recently hit?

Taking on this role as a youth officer (at the MAYU-MIA Youth Hub) would have to be my biggest achievement so far. It has opened my eyes and given me a better understanding and perspective

on life.

What motivates you to do what you do?

There is a big problem with youth crime within my town and I see a lot of negative comments and opinions regarding the problem, but the reality is there are not a lot of people coming forward to help with the issue. These kids come from high-risk home environments and the last thing they need is to be treated like delinquents. I took on this role to offer the children compassion and understanding.

What does Reconciliation Week mean to you?

It means recognising the traditional owners of the land and reflecting on the Indigenous history so that we may all come to an understanding and have more awareness.

Who do you look up to in your community?

My hero would have to be my mum. She is her own woman, and she does not let the world define who she is.

Tamati Smith recently moved back to Geraldton after living in New South Wales.
Camera IconTamati Smith recently moved back to Geraldton after living in New South Wales. Credit: Tamati Smith/Supplied, Tamati Smith

Tamati Smith

Wajarri/ Badimaya and Maori Nga Puhi man Tamati Smith, 29, is a freelance photographer who recently moved to back to Geraldton from Sydney.

What’s a big goal you recently hit?

My biggest goal as a Yamatji community member is the completion of six-year service to Australia in the Royal Australian Navy. As a professional photographer it is photographing an event for Sydney Opera House, creating a short film for the Sydney Harbour Trust, and then having my photography showcased by the AFL — all within a very short time frame of first picking up a camera professionally.

What motivates you to do what you do?

The under-representation of First Nations people in Australian media and finding opportunities to give a voice to stories from the Yamatji community through photographs. Essentially, I want to enable First Nation people to capture and tell their own stories.

What does Reconciliation Week mean to you?

Reconciliation is an interesting concept which still needs to extend beyond Reconciliation Action Plans and the morning tea type events. I am talking about practical ways forward, such as the culture of organisations with their policy and procedures, the understanding of Welcome to Country, and including Aboriginal studies in school curriculum.

What more needs to be done to promote unity in your community?

We need more coming together and proper conversations on how to better co-exist and a respect for the Yamatji way of doing business.

Who do you look up to in your community?

In Geraldton and Mullewa, I look up to a number of people for the hard work they continue to do to make my community an interesting and better place. For example: Charmaine Green for her work for literature and the arts on all three levels, locally, nationally and internationally. Justine Rowe for her work over the years as a sports photographer in Mullewa and Geraldton. And, Charles Mallard for his continued work with youth in Perth and now Geraldton.

Art centre manager trainee Rhiannon Hodder.
Camera IconArt centre manager trainee Rhiannon Hodder. Credit: Supplied

Rhiannon Hodder

Badimia/Wajarri woman Rhiannon Hodder, 32, is the trainee manager at Yalgoo Art Centre, a business student at TAFE and a mother to three.

What’s a big goal you recently hit?

Getting half-way through my studies. I am doing a cert III in business and when I finish my studies I’ll be taking over the art centre full-time.

What motivates you to do what you do?

To stay in Yalgoo. I want to live here. The kids and the artwork. I like it when they all come and sit down and tell different stories behind their painting.

What does Reconciliation Week mean to you?

Coming together as one. This year the Yalgoo Art Centre will hold our first event. Hopefully, it will mean to the community they can come down and spend the afternoon at the art centre.

What more needs to be done to promote unity in your community?

More events, volunteering and getting more people involved in the things that we do. And, showing all the other things there are to do.

Who do you look up to in your community?

I look up to my aunty Alisha Hodder — the Shire’s community development officer — and my elders. I’ve always been around them and respected them and enjoyed learning from them.