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Ambelin Kwaymullina

Your job title

Author, artist and law academic

Your mob/people

Palyku

Outline your background and role in the field you work in

I am a writer, illustrator and law academic who works at the Law School at the University of Western Australia.

Aboriginal people have always been storytellers, and I love telling stories. Some of the stories I deal with as a law teacher are hard stories, such as the tales of the great injustices inflicted upon Indigenous peoples. But these stories are also stories of Indigenous strength and resilience, because our people have needed to be so strong to survive. I think all Indigenous peoples carry that strength within us, passed down through the generations to help us today.

As a writer, I write speculative fiction stories – tales of other worlds and superpowers, but at the heart of my novels are Indigenous girls. They’re who I write about. And I think all Indigenous girls have superpowers deep inside them, including the power to find our way to our dreams. In life, people can take a lot of things from us, but they can’t take our imaginations. Those always belong to us alone, and we can use our imaginations to fuel our strength and our hope.

As an illustrator, I paint stories in bright colours in picture books. These are the stories that make me the happiest, because the colours bring me back to myself and remind me of all the beauty there is in the world.

Your leadership story

When I think of leadership I think of all the Aboriginal people who lived through the hard times of colonialism, and the ways that they fought back and resisted. So many of our ancestors had nearly all their choices taken from them, and there wasn’t much they could do to change their circumstances because of the unjust laws and policies that controlled all aspects of Aboriginal existence. But even so, they held on to their sense of humour, to their strength, and to their generousity. So I try to embody the sort of leadership that they did – to be kind to others, to be strong in yourself, and to always remember to laugh.

Your advice to young people

Look at yourself in the mirror, and say: ‘I matter. I deserve to be heard, to be happy, and to have all my dreams come true.’ And don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s lots of people in this world who’ll try to pull you down, but people like that only really win if we let them get inside our heads and change the way we think about ourselves.