Citizen of the Year recognised for elevating Aboriginal culture among local community

  • 4 July 2022

A Ngarluma Kariyarra NyulNyul Yawuru woman from Kariyarra Country, Kahlie Lockyer is raising awareness of Aboriginal culture and history among the community of Mosman Park. From growing up as an Aboriginal child in a Westernised society, to artistic skills that express her culture and tell stories, and a university major in Anatomy and Human Biology and Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing; Kahlie shares her knowledge and experiences with adults and children.

One of her biggest contributions can be seen at Mosman Park Primary School. Due to her affiliation with the school, where all four of her children have been enrolled, Kahlie was heavily involved in the creation and implementation of its Reconciliation Action Plan.

“We had a meeting so they could hear from Aboriginal families on what they could do to help Aboriginal children. My first thought was, the biggest thing that helped me in school was having a homework centre – it created a community for Indigenous children as well as help them get a better education with extra tutoring. I put forward the idea to Mosman Park Primary School and they jumped straight on board. They called it the Homework Club and the kids really love it and have created their own small Aboriginal community. Other students that may need help can come to it too – it’s all-inclusive.”

While the Homework Club may be with Indigenous students in mind, Kahlie strives to also help educating non-Indigenous students on the history and culture of Australia’s First Peoples. By using her artistic talents, the children can learn and have fun. This is how Kahlie became involved with Mosman Park Primary School during NAIDOC Week.

“I produced some designs for the kids to paint, then we made friendship bracelets out of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands’ flag colours. The following year, we started the Six Seasons paintings where the kids did some dot paintings across two NAIDOC Weeks. We also designed some t-shirts for them to wear – they painted a black hand and a red hand with a yellow circle to make the Aboriginal flag. It was a big hit with a lot of the non-Indigenous kids.”

For last year’s NAIDOC Week theme of Heal Country, Kahlie taught the children the names of animals in her language and created animal stencils for them to print onto t-shirts. With the demands of her postgraduate study at the University of Western Australia, Kahlie admits she’s too busy to do the same this year, but her studies will go a long way to enhancing her contribution.

“Wanting to be a doctor is about trying to improve Aboriginal health and wellbeing, to make the changes and help my peers understand that when you have an Aboriginal patient, they’re going to see things differently. You have to work with them and look at the bigger picture – they may have things going on in their life or there may be a spiritual aspect. If you want to help us close that gap, you need to listen to what we need.”

Kahlie urges non-Indigenous people to appreciate that spiritual beliefs, cultural beliefs and family commitments can be a huge influence in daily life. During our conversation, she speaks of her own family, including her four sons, her mother and her grandmother, and how they are a collective.

“There’s an ochre piece of my four boys, which is about the intergenerational trauma that gets passed down through the lines. My grandmother was a part of the Stolen Generation, so in these last few years, I’ve been learning about that and realising how our social and emotional wellbeing has been affected. People tell us, ‘This is what you need’, but they don’t understand our culture and they don’t want to hear our perspective.”

Despite the challenges, with schools like Mosman Park Primary developing a Reconciliation Action Plan and younger generations being provided with more of an education into Aboriginal culture and history, Kahlie is hopeful for the future.

It is for her own ongoing commitment to this that Kahlie was acknowledged by Town of Mosman Park with a Community Citizen of the Year Award in 2022. The Awards are announced on Australia Day, and Kahlie was open about feeling conflicted with receiving the Award on a date that she has always associated with mourning or survival. She explained how her mum was the one to convince her it was worth accepting on behalf of her family.

“She said, ‘You deserve to get the award and your grandparents and ancestors would be so proud.’ That overcame the feelings I have about the day.”

Since receiving the award, Kahlie has been commissioned by Mosman Park Council for their Reconciliation Action Plan. Her design below was also chosen for the Western Waagyl’s uniform for the UniSport Indigenous Nationals.

“My design portrays the creation of the land and waterways by the waagyl, with elements of earth (hills and bush shrubs and desert land) and water (river). I have designed this in a way to be inclusive of all Aboriginal students (from all over Australia) that carry different stories about the rainbow serpent and his creations. I have placed people in unity with each other among the rainbow scales to symbolise The Western Waagyls team members.”

Find out how you can take part in NAIDOC Week at

If you know someone like Kahlie who is making their community a better place, nominate them for a Community Citizen of the Year Award at

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