Could Matilda Langford be Australia’s first Indigenous female Prime Minister? Whether or not that’s a tall order is a debate for another time; but it’s an appointment this CEF-supported student has been tipped to hold one day.
As NAIDOC Week is being nationally celebrated under the theme ‘Voice. Treaty. Theme. Let’s Work Together.’, Matilda is preparing to share the voice the Dharawal Aboriginal people at the National Indigenous Law Conference (NILC) annual conference next month.
Matilda, only 18, is in her first year of studying a double degree of law and arts (majoring in politics) at the University of Sydney.
She dreams of creating widespread change for both her local community (where she’s supported by Shoalhaven CEF) and for wider Aboriginal Australia.
“My passion and drive are rooted strongly in a Constitutionally-recognised voice for Aboriginal people, and to be able to address the issues surrounding health, incarceration and education for Australia’s ATSI population,” she said.
And despite initially being overwhelmed by the prospect of moving from her hometown area of Mollymook Beach to maintain the workload of this double degree, she seems to have settled in well.
Matilda works as a university student ambassador and is currently assisting with its Bunga Barrabugu Winter Program (a camp for Year 12 Indigenous students).
She appreciates the financial security and the chance to give back, given she’s from a large, single parent family in regional Australia where opportunities to exceed can be rare.
“I really love working for the university because my main role is connecting with high school students, and I know those early connections when I was in high school are the main reason that I’m studying now,” she said.
“When I was in high school, I attended three summer camps and one winter camp with USYD and it feels so great to now be on the other side of operations and pay it back in a way.”
Now, Matilda will be one of two students chose to represent the university at the conference in Darwin on 13 and 14 August 2019.
“I joined The Sydney University Law Society’s First Nations sub-committee; through that I was given the opportunity to attend a Gilbert & Tobin networking event. Because of this event I was lucky enough to meet Jacqueline Mowbray, the academic adviser to Indigenous law students at USYD,” she explained.
“A few weeks later she contacted me and one of the other students who attended the networking evening, Patrick (a fourth year), about the NILC opportunity and said she was hoping to nominate us. And we were accepted.”
The conference agenda is set to explore restoring the authority of Indigenous Elders in the criminal justice system, strengthening cultural competency and Indigenous lawyer perspectives of land rights legal frameworks, incarceration, treaty, justice agreements and constitutional reform.
After all that, how does Matilda feel about being the first female Indigenous leader in the nation’s top job?
“Prime Minister would be a good gig, but I’ll have to wait a few years because I’m not sure that they’re ready for me yet (laughs).”
Matilda Langford is a recipient of a $4,000 national scholarship as part of the University of Sydney and Country Education Foundation of Australia partnership.