Raised in the remote Yolngu-speaking Galiwin’ku community in Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land, Kenisha Gurala Gumbula says it was a shock to the system when she was sent to an elite boarding school in Sydney to finish high school.
“At the time, I really didn’t want to go and I was cursing Mum for sending me, but I realise now it really was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me,” she said.
Now 27-years-old, a single Mum of two young boys, Kenisha is set to become the first Yolngu Lawyer in Australia’s court system.
Whilst juggling Motherhood and studying full-time at Charles Darwin University, Kenisha also works as a community legal educator with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA).
Her job has given her the invaluable experience of working the “bush court” circuit, where Kenisha travels between remote communities, assisting residents in understanding legal issues and bridging language barriers.
“My work is really important to me because it’s shown me how much of a gap there is in the legal system and these communities,” Kenisha says.
“English is the first language for a lot of the people I meet, and it can be hard for them to navigate the system and understand their legal matters, that’s where I think I can really make a difference as a lawyer.”
“Because I can speak their language, people in those communities have come to trust me and I am glad I can help bridge the gap between the two worlds,” she says.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy road to success for Kenisha, but she is endlessly grateful for the support of her Mother and Grandparents.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without them. It’s proven to me that single mother or not, anyone can do it.”
Her advice for other young aspiring Indigenous women?
“Education is the key to success. Keep learning and work hard.”