Mililma May (2016) is a proud Larrakia Tiwi woman from Gulumoerrgin (Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia). She is proud to live on the unceded lands of her grandmother’s country.
Mililma commenced at KRB, on a scholarship, in 2015. She completed Years 11 and 12 at KRB on Gadigal country and is grateful to the Gadigal for its strength and determination, and most importantly, its generosity for having KRB on its sacred lands.
Since completing her HSC, Mililma returned to the Northern Territory where she is near completion of her Law Degree at Charles Darwin University, she works as a paralegal with Gilbert & Tobin and is also a Community Legal Educator. Mililma has founded the organisation “Uprising of the People” also known as UP, which focuses on bringing together individuals, tribes and organisations to discuss issues affecting their communities.
Mililma is pictured here winning the Northern Territory NAIDOC award in 2020 for Youth of the Year with her cousin Sharna Alley for their work with “Uprising of the People”. Congratulations to Mililma and Sharna for their achievements with “Uprising of the People”.
Sr Mary Shanahan has invited Mililma to share with us, the details about her life since graduating from KRB in 2016.
I am writing to you all from Warlpiri country, Lajamanu Community, Northern Territory. I am here on work trip for a week, helping as a Community Legal Educator. My team and I are working with the Kurdiji Elder’s group on Meditation strategies for the community.
I have just got off the phone with Sr Mary Shanahan. She has called to check on me after hearing of some of the things I have been up to since leaving KRB in 2016. I am grateful to call Sister Mary Shanahan my allap (my grandmother in Larrakia, my paternal grandmother’s language). I call Sister Mary allap, out of respect for the beautiful relationship we have formed over the years.
Sister Mary has invited me to write to you all, to share information on my experiences and life over the last 5 years.
A particularly pivotal moment in my life at KRB was when I watched the Four Corner’s Report on the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, ‘Australia’s Shame’ in July 2016. At this time, I vowed to do everything in my power to help empower my people so that we wouldn’t see a repeat of the Don Dale Royal Commission.
I vowed to finish school, I vowed to go to university, and I vowed to move back home, to Gulumoerrgin. I have achieved two out of the three of those vows. I am almost finished my Law degree at Charles Darwin University.
Moving back home in 2019, was the best decision I have ever made. I am extremely proud of myself for listening to my “gut instincts” and the guidance from my ancestors. I moved back home after experiencing heart breaking grief because of the suicide of three people very dear to me, over the last 5 years. It has been hard, but being on my grandmother’s country, feeling the salt water between my toes and the tropical sun beating down on me, has saved me.
Since returning home, I have been working with Gilbert + Tobin (G+T) a corporate law firm as a Paralegal in the Pro-Bono team and have been a Community Legal Educator at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA).
As a Community Legal Educator, my main job has been going into Don Dale Youth Detention Centre to teach the kids about their rights and about our legal history. The highlight of my work has been spending time with my brothers and sisters inside, who range from 11 years of age to 17. They have shown me just how resilient, intelligent, and caring my people are. I am grateful for them.
My work in Don Dale has been equally traumatising. Being in a prison that was once used for adults, then deemed only fit for bulldozers, and that now keeps children from the ages of 10-17, has been horrible to experience. I developed vicarious trauma and have since had to pull back from going into the prison.
After seeing the Four Corners report in 2015, then four years later finding myself in the same place, it has shaped my life and inspired me to make sure no more children end up in such conditions in the future.
Towards the end of 2019, one of my cousins and I organised a protest in Darwin to show our support with the Warlpiri people of Yuendumu after the tragedy they experienced there, when a young boy was shot by police.
Little did I know then, but this event was the conception of our organisation Uprising of the People also known as UP. We are a charitable organisation that brings tribes, communities, and local non-government organisations together to discuss and collaborate on issues affecting our community. UP is Larrakia founded and owned. We are grassroots and not for profit.
Over the last 2 years we have spoken on panels and at conferences, collaborated with Aboriginal Health Organisations, written submissions to Government and held community events such as free legal clinics and social movements. Our goals are to empower, educate and uplift our community so that our people can make their own choices and lead self-determined lives.
We are in the early days of getting set up, and all the work we have done has been in a completely voluntary capacity. Our volunteers have been extremely generous with their time and resources; I feel so grateful for all the support we have received.
During this pandemic we have been working closely with Aboriginal health organisations across the Northern Territory to develop, create and share resources on social media about vaccinations and COVID. Our recent work has seen the creation of Tik Toks, YouTube videos and T-Shirts that read “The Larrakia Want You Vaccinated”.
It has been special for me to amplify my elders’ voices and get them speaking about the issues that are impacting them and our communities. I feel grateful that I can use my skills that I learnt and worked on at KRB to create the content that is saving lives here in Gulumoerrgin.
Looking into the future, I am keen to consolidate our organisation’s constitution and structure.
Up has already led to some big movements and changes on my country.
I look forward to updating you all about it over the coming months.
If you would like to see what we are up to, you can follow us on
- Instagram @uprisingofthepeople
- Facebook @Up: Uprising of the People
- Twitter @up_rising_
- YouTube @Uprising of the People
- Tik Tok @uprisingofthepeople
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter,
All the best,