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5 Changemakers, 5 Days: Talei Elu

Talei Elu is a Saibai Koedal woman from Seisia – a small Torres Strait Islander community in remote Cape York. Talei worked in Canberra for six years in roles at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the National Indigenous Australians Agency and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. She now works part-time for 33 Creative, a First Nations-owned media and events company. 

In 2021, Talei returned home to her community to focus more of her time on community-based initiatives. Talei’s activism is diverse, but it is all grounded in love and care for community. She organises regular beach clean-ups and started Seisia Sports and Rec – a free sports equipment hire project to help grow the skills and competitive spirit of Seisia young people. She also captures and records local stories and language through photography and film. 

Talei has been successful in lobbying government and Telstra to improve telecommunications infrastructure in Seisia, and after a year-long struggle, she and her community have now secured Telstra infrastructure that would support 4G in Seisia and New Mapoon community on Cape York.

We yarned with Talei 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 community.

Talei: Seisia is a small familial community, meaning most residents are actually related to me. Seisia only has twelve streets, one shop, one community hall and an endless supply of spectacular sunsets that everyone watches from the coconut lined beachfront. 

There are lots of things to love about Seisia – the fact that most of my fathers’ family reside here and I can pop into any house here and feel right at home. I love that I can walk down the street or to the beach and can bump into someone and have a yarn. What I love most is the freedom of being able to go for walks out into the bushland or hop in a dinghy and go fishing and explore the islands.

This little community has so much potential, but unfortunately the lack of enabling infrastructure like good telecommunications, reliable power and water, has meant our community faces serious challenges and barriers to achieving better health outcomes, business prospects, and opportunities to access distance education. 

What drives you to create change?

T: The main thing that drives me to create change is my family - I just want to make sure we have more opportunities to thrive, learn and earn more IN Seisia. It shouldn’t be the case that residents feel they have to leave our community in order to access better opportunities for themselves or their families. 

What does your ideal future look like?

T: My ideal future looks like empowering community members in my region with the information and tools they need to hold governments and service providers to account for the poor investment in infrastructure and services in our remote area.

What does being brave look and feel like to you?

T: For me, being brave is doing the groundwork everyday, despite the challenge of remoteness and the overwhelming feeling that the system is actively working against you.

Do you have a call to action for our community?

T: Seisia is seeking donations to purchase Telstra GoRepeaters for households with Elders or residents wanting to start their own businesses or pursue higher education. Telstra GoRepeaters are devices that boost the network signal and can maintain good enough coverage for calls.

If you would like to help Seisia community, please donate to:

Seisia Community Corporation
BSB: 064 804
Account: 133 51 509
Tag: SEISIA TELECOMS

Top image: Supplied by Talei Elu
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