A Williamstown High School student has become the first female elected youth prime minister for the National Indigenous Youth Parliament.
Year 11 student Aretha Stewart-Brown made national headlines when she addressed an estimated 50,000 protesters in Melbourne on Australia Day calling for the date of the national holiday to be changed.
A couple of years earlier, she addressed an Indigenous dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance and attended the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in Turkey as the state government’s Indigenous representative.
Her Aboriginal great-grandfather was a machine-gunner at Kokoda in World War II, but didn’t have the right to vote when he returned.
Aretha, a Gumbaynggirr woman, fought off 17 candidates for the prime ministership at last month’s 50-member parliament, which debated issues important to their community.
Now the one-time aspiring model has her sights firmly set on politics and education.
“The area that I’m focussed on at the moment is education, and especially the reforms that I want to see placed within schools,” she said.
“I’m focused in on the actual teaching of Aboriginal history, or the lack of it.
“I want a set curriculum – I no longer want my history to be elective, I want it to be with everyone else’s history. I think it should be mandatory.
“To all my non-Indigenous allies, the most important way that you can help Indigenous people at this point is just to listen to what we have to say.”
Federal Gellibrand MP Tim Watts congratulated Aretha, saying: “She follows a long line of trailblazing women in leadership from Melbourne’s west, including our first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, and our first female Victorian premier, Joan Kirner.
“No pressure Aretha, but I know that you’ll achieve great things.”