Meet Tiwi and Yanyuwa woman, Antonia Burke: multi-industry coach, trainer and mentor – International Women’s Month

Where are you from?

I am a Tiwi and Yanyuwa woman from the Northern Territory. I grew up in Darwin and the Tiwi Islands where my mum lives. My mum’s bloodline is from Borroloola and my dad’s family are from Hobart in Tasmania.

What do you do?

I am a multi-industry coach, trainer and mentor. I work with a broad range of communities, from youth, athletes & Indigenous people & organisations, covering topics ranging from trauma, program development, and leadership. I’m the head coach and founder of the Brisbane Deadly Runners Club which is a branch of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation. My life’s purpose is to help, guide, educate and love people. In each of these areas, I guide people through their transformation when they want a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. I help people by empowering them with knowledge and tools.  I do my best to inspire other young women by ‘being’ a role-model, speaking through my actions and providing guidance on how to tap into their own strengths & passions.

What is one of the best decisions you have made?

Making the decision to go through my personal growth journey and heal all the pain that I was carrying from my childhood. I literally broke all of my negative conditioning and changed my life.
And bringing my daughter into the world, she is an amazing young woman. It’s fun watching her grow and being able to surround her with amazing women that I invite to walk next to us while she’s growing and going through her own ceremony to become a woman and a role model for her sisterhood.

What is one of the worst decisions you have made?

Eating prawns – I thought I’d grown out of my childhood allergy so I thought ‘oh just one won’t hurt’, but I went into anaphylactic shock and ended up in a hospital bed, unrecognisable and barely able to breath, I blew up like a puffer fish and I thought I was going to die.

Helpful hint, don’t eat foods you’re allergic to.

What are some of the barriers to female leadership?

Not having the right people around to support our journey. A lot of amazing women are in a position to stand out the front, but this can create negativity and lead to a burn out really quickly.

A lot of people want to stand at the front so they choose other people that also want to stand at the front, but if everyone is standing at the front who is in the control engine? You need to have your sisterhood – your community of care and a strong support network.

It’s important to have;

  • The person who will be you’re cheerleader.
  • The person who will listen when you need to vent or cry.
  • The person who makes you feel safe and looks after you
  • And the person who will be there just to get sh*t done.

This year’s NAIDOC theme is “Because of Her, We Can” – what do you think about this theme? And what women have inspired you?

This year’s theme makes me grateful to all of the women who have stood up and fought for the last 6 generations for us women to be able to stand at the front and be heard. It inspires me to continue every day.

The idea of people around our country paying homage and celebrating our women, seeing us, the incredible work we do and recognising that we are the backbone. Yes, we are the mothers, the nurturers, the teachers, we march the streets, we stand up for what’s right and we are also business owners, change makers, pioneers, community leaders. It makes me feel like I’m a part of a generation gifted with an incredible legacy. Because of ALL of these women, we can create real change in our world

Women that inspire me:

  • Oprah Winfrey – she connects people to their soul and the amount of love that she gives out into the world is immeasurable; she is the epitome of female empowerment.
  • Iyanla Vanzant – the way she communicates, her level of integrity and her ability to weave a story. I love how she uses her own story to get people to connect with themselves, she says it how it is.
  • Debbie Kilroy of Sisters Inside– it’s amazing how she went from being a lost child to angry prisoner to becoming a barrister and recognised globally for her work. Every one of her actions has a clear intention and her story is telling to the change that can happen when we open up to transformation. If you sit and watch Debbie you’ll see that she does exactly what she says she is going to do, and the women that are fortunate enough to stand next to her or be in her presence love and respect her for everything that she is. She has taught me to create balance in the energy that I put out into the world.
  • My mum – because she survived. Even after being a member of the Stolen Generation, with limited education, cultural disconnection, family violence and abuse, it didn’t stop her from becoming the leader of the Pirlangimpi Health Clinic as a senior health worker and being a major support to the women, children and elders of her community. Because of her, I am who I am.
  • My daughter – she reminds me to bring fun and laughter into every space that I step into. At 12 years old, she has the courage to stand alone, not follow the crowd or conform. She is an advocate for anti-bullying and demands that people treat each other with respect and kindness.
  • My sister Elena Wangurra – she is a real-life example of what can happen when a young woman surrounds herself with beautiful black strong queens. I’ve watched her totally transform her entire world and then take that message and share it with the world – centre stage.

What advice would you give to empower the next generation of women?

  • Surround yourself with positive people, find your sisterhood, stick together and support each other. (We can do amazing things on our own but when we join with other women the power of the outcome is multiplied).
  • Understand that the decisions you make effects everyone around you.
  • Don’t let other people tell you what you should do, take the time to figure out what makes you truly happy and do that.
  • Listen to your elders, they’ve already been there. They are our teachers. Stay connected to your culture and let it guide you.
  • Don’t follow the crowd, it’s okay to stand out on your own and create a new path and then allow others to come and join you. Be courageous and brave.
  • Take good care of you body and your health.
  • TRUST YOURSELF

What do you think about this year’s theme of #PressForProgress?

I support the movement of seeking out men in our world who we see as someone who can come and sit with us and allow us to guide them about how we as women want to be treated and for them to then go out and teach the other men. I love that this theme calls on us as women to act.

What exciting project do you have coming up?

I’m currently delivering national workshops as the Lead Facilitator with We Al-li, working alongside Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson and Dr Caroline Atkinson. This long-term engagement with the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services  has a strong focus on culturally informed, trauma integrated, healing approaches and provides tools that assist in enabling Indigenous women to recover from trauma and reduce burn out and secondary trauma in the workplace.

My sister, Elena Wangurra (from Hot Brown Honey) and I have just launched a young women’s empowerment program called QueenMode. The QueenMode Healing and Empowerment Summit is a transformational program focusing on combining ancient Indigenous cultural practices and western knowledge to guide the process of decision-making, recognising fear and how to step through it with confidence, recognising and responding to lateral violence and vicarious trauma, healthy self-care practices, healthy relationships and identifying and releasing trauma. The program enables young women and youth to feel empowered during their young adult and high school years when making decisions that will effect their adult lives. QueenMode is an extension of the Alawura Youth Empowerment Summit which has a strong focus on Values, Facing Fear and Self Love – understanding values and how they contribute to our decisions. It aims to create a higher awareness of being integral and ensuring that we are walking our talk; that we are doing what we say we are doing.

Do you have a website or any social media platforms you would like us to include?

https://www.facebook.com/brisbanedeadlyrunners/