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5 Changemakers, 5 Days: Hayley McQuire

Hayley McQuire is a Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman and the co-founder of NIYEC. NIYEC stands for the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition. It’s a growing collective of First Nations young people working together to reclaim education.

Hayley is passionate about embedding First Nations ways of knowing, being and doing in every part of the education ecosystem. We yarned with Hayley in the lead up to National Reconciliation Week 2022 for our 5 Changemakers, 5 Days campaign. Questions and answers may have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about yourself and your mob?

Hayley: I’m Darumbal woman, born and raised in Rockhampton, Central Queensland. I have also connections to Tanna Island, Vanuatu through my great-great-grandfather who was blackbirded to so-called Australia. 

What drives you to create change?

H: There are a few things. Initially what set me on this journey was my own personal experiences of going through school and feeling invisible within the curriculum and that my own people’s story didn’t have a place. This is an issue that continues to impact a lot of young mob I’ve spoken to, even today. I think what sustains me in this role is my responsibility to my daughter and to my community. Firstly, I want my daughter to leave school feeling valued, feeling seen and feeling equipped to take on adulthood. The education system is more than 100 years old and the future that young people are going to inherit is complex, with climate change threatening our very existence. I feel like unless we bring along the next generation to rethink and reclaim our education system then we’ll fail to prepare young people for their future reality. What also sustains me is the good people that are already a part of driving this change, and that feeling of not being alone in this fight.

What does your ideal future look like?

H: The purpose of learning is connected back to caring for Country, waterways, seas and skies. A First Nations-led learning system that is self-determined. A learning ecosystem that is equitable and fair, where your postcode doesn’t define whether you’ll succeed in education or not.  

Ultimately, it’s proud and strong lifelong learners who don’t have to sacrifice their own selves in order to “succeed” in learning or life. 

What does being brave look and feel like to you?

H: I’m not sure, I think mob are brave just by virtue of our existence. 

Do you have a call to action for our community?

H: Please support the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition. Donations are always welcome, but there are other actions too. Check out our website, sign up to our mailing list, follow our social media, and tell your friends and family about us.

Top image: By Nina Fitzgerald
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