Aboriginal women from across the Pilbara had the opportunity to have their voices shape national policy at a first-of-its-kind forum for regional WA last Wednesday.

A 100-strong crowd gathered at Roebourne’s Ngurin Cultural Centre for the Pilbara First Nations Women’s Policy Forum, a day-long meeting on topics ranging from health to housing designed to inform Australian Labor party policy.

It was organised by the office of Senator Sue Lines and featured guest speakers Linda Burney, shadow minister for indigenous Australians and families and social services, and Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy, as well as local women as session facilitators.

MC Josie Alec said the event gave Pilbara women a platform for sparking change on a national level.

“I think the women are good at speaking because we’re gossipers — we like to talk and we like to get things off our chest, and I think being here in Roebourne, in a place where Pilbara women can come together in our own environment, is really important,” she said.

“There is time and room here to make a change because we know that our talk’s not going to go back to the Government, be pushed around and then shoved out of the way — it’s going to go and be changing policy somewhere, critically, to change what we do here, the programs that we run and the funding we get.”

Health and wellbeing session facilitator Jolleen Hicks said she was pleased to see so many women attending the forum to have their say on the decisions that affected their communities.

“We need to make sure we’re achieving outcomes to change things, and part of that is decision-makers at a high level listening to people on the ground and knowing that you can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach for Aboriginal communities — you’ve got to have voices from regions and communities being heard, about our differences and our priorities,” she said.

Ms Lines said the voices of women, especially indigenous women, too often went unheard in political circles. “It’s really important that First Nations women’s voices are heard and are amplified, because the solutions to issues and concerns in communities often do rest with the women,” she said.

The forum discussions will be collated into a document and considered for implementation as policy by the ALP.