My Story: Nikki McGrady
Nikki McGrady grew up in Tenterfield, NSW, reading from books detailing the proud ways of Indigenous people in this country. Belonging to the Gamilaroi people and raised by a long lineage of strong women, her childhood was filled with family, stories and a spiritual connection to her country.
She moved to Queensland 18 years ago, has two children aged 19 and 11, and has been living in the Moreton Bay region for the past four years, carefully respecting the traditional owners of this country, the Gubbi Gubbi people. Originally pursuing the ‘Aussie Dream’ of earning a six figure salary and owning a house, she realised her passion was working in the community, and needed to reconnect with her people and her children.
Nikki has been working at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), with the Australian Nurse Family Partnership Program (ANFPP) as a Family Partnership Worker since the start of this year. The program aims to provide Indigenous families with support and education on becoming first time parents. Nurses and midwives visit mums during pregnancy, and after the baby’s arrival up until the age of two.
Nikki can see how the program is changing both the patterns and life courses of its participants. “To be able to empower new mums to be the best that they can be and get paid to do that, is such a privilege,” she says. “To have that support, knowledge and understanding is something I wish I’d had when my babies were born.”
Nikki’s face shines when she speaks about her work. It has inspired her to study midwifery, and she intends to eventually take what she is learning to other regions, so that future generations of Indigenous families can have the same confidence to thrive.
Educational programs play an integral role toward the continued healing and acceptance of Indigenous Australians since European colonisation. Nikki believes that education is vital to the understanding and recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders deserve, and will assist in overcoming the stigma placed on Indigenous Australians to conform to ‘white’ Australian society.
“My Grandmother could sing songs in our language and knew so much about our culture,” she said, full of emotion. “But she would tell us ‘You don’t need that now, it’s a different world. You don’t need to know that stuff.’
“You were never allowed to speak or sing in language, or perform ceremonies after colonisation – so you couldn’t be yourself,“ Nikki explained. “And I think that gets passed down, even unknowingly.”
She dreams of an Australia that accepts all cultures for who they are, where there’s no superiority and everyone has respect for others’ beliefs and traditions. “Just because it’s not your way, doesn’t mean it’s not right,” Nikki says emphatically. “I tell my kids that all the time.”
Education for Australian schoolchildren to know the true history of Australian colonisation and the history of Indigenous Australians in this country since then, including learning Indigenous languages, is something else she hopes can be achieved in her lifetime.
On a sign which has hung in every house she has lived in are the words ‘Never Give Up’. A reminder to keep fighting to be who you are. To always be proud.