Because of Her, We Can Ebook Female Leader, Cherissma Blackman said, “I would like to see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out on the Great Barrier Reef, showcasing this magnificent creation to the domestic and global communities. After all, we have been its caretaker for over 65,000 years.”
You are building a cultural heritage tourism business to ensure the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians are proactive in protecting the Great Barrier Reef. As a descendant, you have permission to tell the stories of the Aboriginal traditional owners of the Great Barrier Reef. Tell us about your obligation to continue that practice.
Having Ancestral connections to the Northern (Meriem Mer) North Qld (Yidinji) Southern Great Barrier Reef (Meerooni), I have been taught the Traditional Knowledge of Songlines and Dreaming Stories that relate to our coastal connections. These include most of the off shore Islands. It is our obligation to tell these stories to our children and grandchildren. This is to ensure the cultural custodianship and connections are never lost.
With Ngardu, how are you bringing cultural understanding to industry and what outcomes are you seeing for the broader community?
Ngardu Cultural Tours on the Great Barrier Reef is one of a kind, and long overdue. I hope my cultural tours will help break the cycle of poverty and unemployment for my people. I would like to see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out on the Great Barrier Reef, showcasing this magnificent creation to the domestic and global communities. After all, we have been its caretaker for over 65,000 years. The ambition and vision of my cultural reef tours has prompted support from Tourism Vendors such as Curtis Ferries Gladstone, Sealink Townsville and Quicksilver Cairns.
I also induct and facilitate cultural awareness and cultural heritage sessions to mining, corporate and government. Ngardu Training and Development is partnering with a registered training organisation, to write specific training qualifications around cultural heritage management and cultural competencies.
It’s important to deliver local knowledge and share our cultural heritage to create greater understanding and harmony with the region’s First Nations People. One of the key training objectives is to create awareness of cultural heritage, state and federal legislative requirements, such as the Native Title Act and the Cultural Heritage Act, and the role all stakeholders play in managing our heritage.
Australia is culturally diverse. My training helps the greater population recognise the impact of cultural influences, the changing cultural practices and how this impacts on the diverse communities that make up Australian society. I share the principles of the Racial Discrimination Act, Equal Employment Opportunity, sex, race disability, anti-discrimination and similar legislation and the implications for work and social practices.
It is also important to share where people can go for help after the training. Sharing available resources and ongoing assistance in the workplace as well as through Government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mentors and identified positions within the corporate structure.
You appear on a regular radio show to discuss current affairs impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Tell us about this.
ABC Capricornia has me as a regular host every second Tuesday. I give listeners an insight to current Indigenous issues, I have regular guests who have included Michael Mansell, Aunty (Dr) Jackie Huggins, Aunty (Professor) Gracelyn Smallwood and my father, Dr Kerry Blackman.
You say that women are the backbone of our society. Tell us about the inspiring women who have influenced your own leadership journey.
The biggest mentor in my childhood and throughout my life was my Paternal Grandma Victoria Margaret Grammanitz (nee Blackman). She was my backstop, reality checker, shoulder to lean and cry on, and so much more. Grandma Vicky once said to me, “Take this good pen. Use it when you become a lawyer.” With respect I took the pen, but rolled my eyes when she turned around thinking “Grandma, that’s just a dream now.”
When Grandma passed over in December 2011 this changed how I looked at life. I thought about Grandma’s inspiration and what she would have wanted for me. After all the years of building my life skills through the University of Life, I enrolled at Deakin University the following year. I never looked back. In 2015, I transferred to Central Queensland University (CQU), through the support of a major mentor (Aunty) Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, who was the Pro-Vice Chancellor of CQU. She is now UQ Chancellor, my current inspiration and confidant. I am doing my practical legal training part-time, and I hope to be admitted as a solicitor upon completion.
Other important women in my life have been my mother, Jacqueline Blackman, my three sisters, my grandmothers Victoria and Dulcie, my dad’s sisters, my mum’s older sisters, cousins, peers and my circle and network of strong women which include all the sisters in arms from around Gladstone, Kyogle and Casino.
Why did you choose to use the colours of the Torres Strait Islander flag to feature in the ebook?
I have chosen the colours of the Torres Strait Islander flag to pay homage to my Torres Strait Islander lineage and to acknowledge my brothers, sisters, Pamle, Elders and community in the Torres Strait.
On my father’s lineage, I am a Meerooni/Gurang and Gooreng Gooreng Woman. On my Mother’s lineage, I am connected to the Yidinji Peoples of Cairns (Gimoy), Gordonvale (Gubuda) and Murray Island (Meriem Mer) and St Pauls and Rennell Islands of the Torres Strait. My bloodlines are from the Savage, Maza, Morrison and Pitt families.
My Grandad’s Sister is my Aka Flo Kennedy, who paved the way for a lot of Torres Strait Islander Rights, especially women’s rights. My Aka Mary Ann Savage (Pitt) and Grandad Sam Savage (Tahega Toa) formed the First Coming of the Light Celebration on Darnley Island (Erub). My maternal Grandmother’s Brother, Athe Robert (Bob) Maza pioneered acting and performing arts for all Indigenous Australians. The Pitt family also established Malay Town in Cairns.
The National Because of Her, We Can Ebook is a tribute to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Right across Australia there are endless examples of strong and successful Indigenous women leading the way. This Ebook shines a light on 12 of our country’s Indigenous women, including four Queenslanders, who are leading and succeeding in business. These women show the strength, resilience, hard work, creativity and intelligence that are crucial elements in business success. Their stories, journeys and the lessons learned are as diverse as they are, but all offer inspirational advice.
The Honourable Di Farmer MP
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
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