Making space and leading the way, Matika Little has stepped into the role of First Nations and Community Engagement Officer with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Little is a proud Queer and Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi woman. She steps into the position with a vision of supporting the voices of those who have led the way, and those coming forward.

“I’m really excited that I am taking up what is really a dream role for me, bringing together two really core parts of my identity and serving two really wonderful and diverse proud communities,” Little told NIT.

Hailing from Wagga Wagga in regional New South Wales, Little was raised on Country with a strong sense of her cultural identity. 

“I was lucky for the majority of [my] growing up to grow up on Country … I come from two really strong families so did have that strong sense of identity and pride growing up,” she said.

“It’s also really important for people in our community, like myself, who are lighter-skinned. Having that strength in identity really backs you for the challenges that come when people question your Aboriginality.”

Passionate about working with her community, Little moved to Sydney for her schooling before graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Technology.

“From there I thought I wanted to go into broadcast journalism because I was really sick of the way in which media covered Indigenous issues,” she said.

“Through my university journey I realised I wanted to pivot back to a community focus, I worked with AIME Mentoring, and have been working as a pathways advisor at the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.

“It was a full circle moment for me, supporting young people on scholarships at boarding schools.”

Little co-hosts the podcast Coming Out Blak alongside Butchulla and Gubbi Gubbi woman Courtney Hagen.

“It’s creating a safe, inclusive space for Queer Indigenous mob to feel like they have a community, [for them] to feel seen and have their stories shared. It’s a space for me to share my story and have others connect with that too,” she said.

Mardi Gras Parade. Photo by Jeffrey Feng.

In her new role with Mardi Gras, Little will work to ensure that the voices of LGBTQIA+ First Nations peoples are influencing the work of Mardi Gras and will drive the organisation’s ‘Always On’ vision which seeks to connect, celebrate and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples every day of the year.

“I want acknowledge the trailblazers that have come before me and those who are out in community making waves now,” she said.

“A big focus point for me will be ensuring we have strong relationships with LGBTQIA+ First Nations organisations so we can work together in supporting our community.

“Our First Nations LGBTQIA+ mob deserve representation and the opportunity to be included in decision-making processes.”

Little acknowledges the connection between the LGBTQIA+ community and Indigenous community.

“I feel that the LGBTQI+ community and the Indigenous community, we have so much cross-over,” she said.

“We have similar values like family, community, pride in self, respect for your Elders or those who have come before. This space is somewhere where we continue to find allies among each other — that just makes us stronger going forward.”

Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said through Little’s and the First Nations Advisory Committee’s guidance, the organisation “plans on further building cultural competence and strong relationships between LGBTQI+ First Nations people, our organisation, partners and wider community.”

“Our Australian First Nations people are the oldest continuous culture in the world, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQI+ Sistergirl and Brotherboy communities have their own distinct voices to share,” he said.

With a big vision and a long road ahead of her, Little is inspired to give it everything she has.

“I am still pretty young, I’m relatively still starting out in my career and to be lucky enough to be trusted with a position like this is so humbling to me,” she said.

By Rachael Knowles