Award ‘surreal’ for Mailman.
RECEIVING an Australia Day honour is bittersweet for Bidjara woman Keelen Mailman, who hopes this award will help the public understand the needs of her people.
In 2005 Ms Mailman, from Augathella, was acknowledged by the Queensland Museum as the first Aboriginal woman to manage a cattle property in Australia.
In 2007 she was a Queensland finalist for Australian of the Year and in 2016 she was awarded Barnardos Mother of the Year.
Now, Ms Mailman has been honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia.
“It was a surreal moment. I feel honoured to have won this prestigious award and I’m hopeful it can shine a light on issues relating to my people,” she said.
“I do things differently to other people and I hope this award brings us justice in the right way.”
For Ms Mailman, this includes seeing the 2019 Native Title Act amendments become law, and constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Ms Mailman was awarded for her significant service to the indigenous community of Queensland. She hopes her current project which has remained unfulfilled for the past four years can finally get off the ground.
“I have worked tirelessly to open a healing centre that would run at the property at Mt Tabor for low-risk Aboriginal offenders,” she said.
“I have asked for support from the government to cut down the petty incarceration of our people.
“Our people are born on the land, not in prisons. We need to help our people and we have come up with this plan, but the fact it hasn’t come off the ground, due to the government, is quite disgraceful.”
Low-risk indigenous offenders could work on the land with Ms Mailman, and gain confidence to go back into the community to get a better job.
She has asked the government for $500,000 to support this program and believes it would save millions of dollars in prison fees.
“There’s a lot of money going overseas and I’m not knocking anyone’s country or culture, but I have problems with the first peoples in this country not receiving any help,” she said.
“The best form of healing for our people is on the country.
“I would really love that in 2020 the government would start listening and act on getting this healing centre off the ground.”