This year’s Miss NAIDOC finalists on what ‘Heal Country’ means to them

Photographer – Cole Baxter
Creative – Nathan McGuire
Wardrobe – Clothing the Gap

“‘Heal Country’ is about tapping into that connection – to culture, to country, to our people and our community. For Miss NAIDOC, it’s a really fitting theme.”

As the 11th year of the Miss NAIDOC Perth event draws to a close, co-founder, activist and proud Whadjuk Ballardong woman Shannon McGuire is reflecting on 2021’s theme, ‘Heal Country’. “It just fits,” she explains. “For Aboriginal people, connection [to Country] isn’t just physical. ‘Heal Country’ is about tapping into that connection – to culture, to country, to our people and our community. For Miss NAIDOC, it’s a really fitting theme.”

While most titles prefaced with a ‘Miss’ evokes images of Vaseline-coated teeth and Steve Harvey, the Miss NAIDOC program prides itself on throwing traditional pageantry rules out the window. Think less “world peace”, more empowerment, support and opportunities for First Nations women. “I’m a program coordinator, but really my job is just to facilitate the space and allow these women to express themselves,” Shannon explains.

Interested to learn how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.

After securing second runner-up on the first season of Australia’s Next Top Model, signing with Chic Models and having her own Steve Harvey-hosted Miss Universe experience, Shannon saw an opportunity for positive change in the industry. Originally an event running alongside the NAIDOC ball in the early ’90s, Miss NAIDOC Perth was revived in 2009 as a way to bring together young Aboriginal women, to learn about culture and “to talk about identity, beliefs and values”.

Alongside co-founder and NAIDOC chair Aunty Glenda Kickett and working group member Jarni McGuire, Shannon brings First Nations women together over six weeks of the program’s empowerment and leadership workshops. While only one woman will be crowned at the July 17 ceremony, there are no losers of Miss NAIDOC.

“It’s about helping these women figure out who they are in their culture and sending them away with the knowledge of who they are and what they can give to their community,” says Shannon. Here are this year’s nine Miss NAIDOC finalists on what ‘Heal Country’ means to them.

Tiarna Wynne

“When I stand on Country, it gives me a great sense of belonging and ownership. The knowledge that the land I walk on today is the same land that my ancestors and elders walked on feels intrinsically magical and powerful.”

Kae Cox

“I want our generation to destroy the stigma placed upon our culture and our people. To encourage them to strive towards their dreams, no matter how big or how small. And keep our beautiful culture alive and thriving. And prove to the world who we truly are as Aboriginal people.”

Breanna Jackson-Reid

“‘Too White to be Black and too Black to be White’ is a concept that I battled with for a number of years during my early teens. It wasn’t until I was 19 that i finally understood how proud I should be to be part of the longest surviving culture in the world.”

Daisy Humphries

“I belong to an extraordinary line of Humphries, particularly my grandparents; my grandparents are my role models. Their power, strength and sacrifice has been passed down and shaped the outcomes of my life so far.”

Shakirra Ugle

“I believe in the value of knowing who my mob is, and I have been fortunate enough to know my people. I love being a Nyiyaparli/Whadjuk woman. It’s what makes me so unique. I’m so blessed to be part of such a unique and diverse culture.”

Kiahara Jacobs Hampton

“All of us girls have something so special to give to one another. So far, this journey has given us a sisterhood.”

Darycha Lynch

“My great-grandmother holds a special place in my heart. It is through her teachings that I learnt most of what I know today about our culture. She also taught me strength, resilience and imparted in me a great sense of pride in who I am, where I am and who came before me.”

Caliesha Edney

“I will, no matter what, make a positive change in my people’s community.”

Skye Lockyer

“I come from a long line of strong matriarchs who spent their lives fighting for justice. As a queer Aboriginal woman, my life is committed to advocating for equity and fairness and fighting for social justice.”

Head here to learn more about Miss NAIDOC.

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