In celebration of NAIDOC week, IMA Coordinator East, Nick Wight, interviewed Mary Slabb, co-founder of Juraki Surf Culture in NSW:
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who’s your mob, and where is home for you?
I was born in Brewarrina (Bre), western NSW. My mother’s family are Barkindji/Ngemba, and my father’s family are Wiradjuri. I now live in Fingal Head, Bundjalung country, with my husband, Joel, and our four children – Budjerah, Jalaan, Namaala and Ngandu. I’ve lived in Fingal now for 18 years, so Fingal is home to me, but I always love going back to Bre to visit my family.
Tell us a bit about Juraki…
My husband and I started Juraki Surf Culture in 2016. Juraki is an Indigenous not-for-profit community entity committed to creating, supporting and partnering in community activities, programs and sporting events that give Indigenous yet culturally sensitive opportunities to mainstream people. It’s about ‘closing the gap from the Indigenous perspective’. Our projects are aimed at equipping, empowering and encouraging Indigenous people to achieve their dreams and goals, working with Indigenous Christian community leaders to support the community in areas of leadership, healing, culture and overall health and wellness.
What are some of your other roles in the community?
Juraki and family take up the majority of my time. But for the past four years I have been privileged enough to take a weekly Scripture in Schools class at the local primary school. I also love baking, so that’s something I do to help our local community in any way that I can.
This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Because of Her We Can’. Who are some of the key women who have influenced your leadership?
I have come from a long line of strong, beautiful, Aboriginal Christian women. My two grandmothers, Edith Gordon and Shirley Gibson, and my mum, Elizabeth, have been faithful women of God and have shown me strong family and community values that I see as a great blessing. Since moving to Fingal I have been honoured to have met some amazing Indigenous women, Aunty Kath Lena and Aunty Dale Williams, who have been a huge encouragement to me and are definitely women I go to for advice and to just sit and learn from. I really feel that the key to us growing is sitting under great leadership. It really is because of her that we can.
How do you see the ‘big picture’ of your leadership and faith in your community and your influence on the next generation of women including your daughters?
Because of the amazing women who have gone before us, a good foundation has been laid, so for me, it’s something that I will strive to carry on. Leaning in and listening to their wisdom and knowledge and learning from past mistakes will help me and many others grow and continue on our journey. Hopefully we will be that strength for the next generation, just as the elders have been for us. I have two daughters and if I could teach them anything, it would be to take time to sit with our old women and hear their stories, and honour them for paving the way for generations to come.