Two Indigenous students from The University of Western Australia were among 10 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women named as finalists in the 2014 Miss NAIDOC Perth awards.
Vinka Barunga (25) was crowned runner-up to Miss NAIDOC at a celebration at the Perth Concert Hall last week. And 19 year-old Aggie Mannel was crowned Miss Kwobordok (which means ‘beautiful' in the Noongar language). Aggie's award was decided by her fellow contestants.
The Miss NAIDOC awards, in their fourth year, recognise the achievements of strong and proud Indigenous women. The celebration was the culmination of a six-week Empowerment and Leadership program.
Vinka, who is a Worrora woman from the Kimberley, is in her fourth year of Medicine.
She said NAIDOC Week was important because it is about acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, and a celebration of the achievements as a community given this history.
"NAIDOC Week is also about celebrating future achievements and goals for reconciliation and building a better future for all Australians," Vinka said.
"Once I graduate, my aim is to help improve Indigenous health by providing culturally appropriate and accessible health care. It has always been my goal to return home to the Mowanjum Aboriginal community and give back to the people and community who have taught me so much about who I am and where I belong."
Aggie is a Torres Strait Islander and Yarrabah woman from Queensland. At UWA she is undertaking a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology.
"For me, NAIDOC Week is celebrating our identity, something so fundamental as Indigenous people, and sharing that with the wider society," Aggie said. "Seeing Indigenous and non-Indigenous people coming together to recognise and acknowledge the beauty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is so important to build a brighter future.
"As an Indigenous woman, my passion is to build myself to be able to engage, support and educate Indigenous youth and work within the community as a psychologist. I'm passionate about mentoring Indigenous students and developing their personal sense of worth while working on mental health awareness.
"Through completing my studies I'll be able to give back to a community that has given me much support and motivation. I believe it's fundamental for these young adults to grow and nurture their education, self worth, health and strengthen their identity and culture."