Australia

‘There is power in their stories’: Indigenous women encourage youth to control their narrative

The women paving the way for the next generation say young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “go against the grain”, and it’s for that reason their voices must be heard.

Since 2017, Cobble Cobble woman Megan Davis has been a leading figure in pushing for the establishment of a First Nations voice enshrined in the Australian constitution, as part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The law professor, who has also been a member of the Australian Rugby League board since 2017, says the Uluru Statement is very much driven by and for Indigenous youth.

Professor Davis also works closely with the NRL’s Indigenous playing group to ensure their voices are heard.(

Getty: Matt King

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“Having a voice in the constitution will mean we have input in all facets of our lives. It is the highest law in the land and therefore it creates the conditions for the next generation to thrive,” she said.

“The youth who have worked alongside the Uluru leadership and with the Uluru dialogue are so impressive and inspiring. They are all clever and well informed and measured in the way they work and their respect for others.

“They are the future and so their voices are critical to the movement.”

A guest speaker at an event smiling for a photo with two school students
Professor Davis with School to Work students at the Youth Summit May.(

Supplied: NRL

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While Professor Davis continues to fight for constitutional reform, NRL’s School to Work (S2W) program engagement coordinator Amy Curmi is helping reshape attitudes on the ground by re-branding what the initiative is about.

Curmi’s journey with the program, which supports Indigenous students in their final years of schooling as they transition into further study or employment, started in 2016 as a year 11 participant at Woolooware high school.

With a passion for sport, particularly rugby league, Curmi was given an opportunity to undertake a traineeship with the Cronulla Sharks game-day events team, before being offered an administration role and gaining her certificate three in business.

Woman shaking hands hand during a ceremony
Amy Curmi graduated from the School to Work program in 2017.(

Supplied: NRL

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After advancing to different roles throughout the NRL, Curmi came full circle to join the School to Work team as an engagement coordinator.

In her current role, the 21-year-old Gamilaroi woman is encouraging Indigenous youth to tell their stories and control their narrative.

“When we used to approach stakeholders and schools, saying we’re affiliated with the NRL was how we would try and sell the program,” she said.

“But we figured out not everyone is involved with the NRL and not everyone loves the game as much as others do. So, we had to take a step back and think: ‘How can we sell this program for more people to get involved?’

“Each student in the program has an amazing story so we wanted to encourage them to tell it.

“Once we had a little bit of content behind us, we could then show other stakeholders and schools, not only what the participants were doing in the program but more importantly who they are as people.

“The aim is to make schools understand that it’s not just about a footy program, it’s about supporting and finding opportunities to their talent students.

“And from a stakeholder’s point of view it’s giving them the opportunity to employ these incredible young people who can add so much to their business.”

Woman standing in front of sign
Curmi is coming up to five years of being involved in the NRL.(

Supplied: NRL

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Since the program began in 2012 with just 200 Indigenous kids, it has grown to support more than 3,000 participants.

It’s an achievement that would not have been possible without the influence of the women like Curmi who work on the program, says NRL’s general manager of Indigenous strategy Mark deWeerd.

“Rugby league would be a very different sport without women — we’d be lucky to have a sport to be honest,” deWeerd said, as rugby league celebrates the Women in League round.

“I just think that women bring a different perspective.

“When I particularly look at the School to Work program, the women see things very differently. They’re more thoughtful at times and thought provoking when it comes growing the program.

“The women who work on the program — eight of them Indigenous — provide strong leadership and are incredible role models for our young people. They challenge the students, find opportunities for them, and genuinely believe in them.

“We’re honestly lucky as program, as a sport and as a community to have them.”

Man giving a speech during an event
Mark deWeerd played a crucial role in getting the School to Work program off the ground.(

Supplied: NRL

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