It only takes a short conversation with Kunja Woman Mikayla Hinkley to realise the deep passion and connection she holds for her culture.
As an Indigenous role model on the field, Hinkley is also dedicating her time away from cricket to help inspire and shape the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Earlier this year, the WNCL champion was appointed as Student Support Officer at Brisbane’s Wellington Point State High School. Mentoring and working exclusively with young Indigenous girls, Hinkley’s role is to inspire the next generation of young leaders, to encourage school attendance and support their career aspirations.
“I’ve loved every minute of it. So far, it’s been a dream job,” she said.
“I’m mentoring these kids through the education system, which is often a one size fits all system our Indigenous kids don’t always fit into. It’s always very wellbeing and attendance based and giving these girls a culturally safe space with someone they can have a yarn with and keep them connected to culture and community as well.
“I do a lot of back and forth with community elders around keeping the mental health and education of our kids as a priority. It’s a very community driven role.”
"The first time I pulled on an Indigenous guernsey, I never felt a more intense sense of belonging in my life."
Mikayla Hinkley talks about the power behind representing her culture 🖤💛❤️️
The role was developed through the Beyond the Broncos Program, an initiative founded by National Rugby League (NRL) team, the Brisbane Broncos. The program supports more than 250 students in Years 7 – 12 and aims to maximise positive outcomes in school attendance, effort and behaviour.
While Hinkley had to resign from her post as a Youth Worker to enter the WBBL hub, she said the role offered her an opportunity to get back into the community and stay connected with her Indigenous roots.
“Like most of the girls when we got out of the hub, I was a little bit everywhere and I needed something where I was helping people and something that I’m passionate about that. This role seemed like something that was really beneficial, not only to the community, but for me staying connected to culture as well as providing that culturally safe space for other people.”
This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is – Heal Country! – and calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for the lands, waters, sacred sites and cultural heritage of First Nation’s People from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.
“I think there are many components to it,” Hinkley said regarding Heal Country.
“The most immediate one for me is probably the importance that Country has to Aboriginal people and getting back to Country. I think, for me personally, when I can get my feet back on Country, I really feel rebalanced, reconnected, and realigned with who I am and what purpose I serve in, in my life.
“To the broader community, Heal Country can mean many different things. It can mean the physical land we stand on and it is also a spiritual term within the community. It's not just healing Country within the Indigenous community. It's about healing country and healing connections with non-Indigenous Australians as well.”