Their Stories

Q&A with Ebony Hickey

8 March 2018

Ebony Hickey,  graduate of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leaders Program, answers a few questions in celebration of International Women’s Day (Thursday 8 March 2018)

Tell us about you and how you got to where you are today?

I’m a proud Gulidjan Woman, Mother and Sister. My connection to Gulidjan Country comes on behalf of my mother’s family line, glorious country in South West Victoria of Colac and surrounds has been that of my families for as long as western history has been documented and for what I believe to be thousands of years before that. My country is women’s country and I believe my role to protect and advocate on and for Gulidjan Country was established long before my existence and my families morals and values engrained deep into the way I practice both culturally and professionally.

I guess the start of my journey was a little later than others, being a granddaughter of the Stolen Generation, fighting to be part of the community we lived in took up a large part of my youth. The lateral violence perpetuated towards my family has driven me to do the work I do now and to do my best to never leave anyone behind. I’m so proud that my grandfather fought so hard for us to belong and I’m hoping that being connected now as a mother my children have a better sense of connection to community than I did growing up.

The role I’m working in currently is a dual role however both within the Aboriginal Community Development space. Over the years I have been supported to follow my heart within my position and that the voice of the grass roots worker is just as valuable as that of an executive.

I work for Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative and have had the opportunity to work on many exiting projects over the last few years spanning from the arts, advocacy, justice, family violence, parenting programs but the establishment of the Colac Aboriginal Gathering Place has been the project that’s really lit a fire in my heart. I’ve always known that Aboriginal people the world over have been the keepers of the community development practice but I didn’t know how to articulate that – through my role I’ve learnt the way I do just fine. Aboriginal people, my people have always known how to support one another and care for the spirit of this land and it’s longevity. We don’t need to be sold an antidote or to be put into boxes the government and past policies have thrust upon us, we just need to fight for and be given the opportunity to demonstrate this and find the right platforms and way forward for our people.

Over the last year I have been working on the establishment of the Colac Aboriginal Gathering Place, it had been identified that Aboriginal people living in Colac didn’t have an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or culturally safe space. The lack of advocacy and cultural safety in health, community, family education and a range of other services has lead to a series of issues historically.

The local Aboriginal Action Group along with Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative have conducted a 12 month needs analysis and found that not only do the community feel they need access to vital services it was found that mainstream service providers also need the support to navigate the need and best ways to support the community.

The Colac Aboriginal Gathering Place opened it’s doors on the 3rd of November and I couldn’t be prouder to be co-ordinating this space. My aim is the Gathering Place will increase the advocacy, service delivery and open the door to new opportunities for our Aboriginal Community and broaden community knowledge on Aboriginal issues within the Colac region.

Is there a particular woman you find inspiring and why?

Michelle Deshong is my ultimate hero she has really inspired me to be the change I needed in my own life, to challenge societies view of the Aboriginal Woman. To challenge societies views of me.

Michelle has a passion that lights up a room, she speaks a language that is powerful and I believe that encourages people to join the journey with her, she looks at her journey as one of opportunity.

Michelle empowers women to dig a little deeper into themselves to find the challenges they need to overcome and to set goals to make overcoming those challenges a possibility.

Michelle in my opinion endeavours to build the capacity and capabilities of Aboriginal women through empowering women to be the leaders of their own life – she lives and breathes leadership and inspires women globally.

I have a couple more, women supporting women is one of my absolute favourite things. Kristie Fraser Lange, Bec Harnett, Leigh Bartlett, Angela Jeffrey, Gnat Atherden, Dawn Condon, Janine Cattanach and Jess Bartlett. I couldn’t survive without these women daily, they inspire me to be the best I can be in many different area’s of my life.

What advice do you give to other female leaders?

The best advice I can give other women is to spend time building each other up not tearing each other down. Surround yourself with people that will support you to be the best version of you, there is no harm to be done to you when you practice everything you do with integrity. Be strong enough to be confident in yourself and to continue to grow and learn – reflect on that process often.


Ebony Hickey is part of our inspiring alumni and undertook the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leaders Program.