Nine finalists for the title of Miss NAIDOC Perth have been announced, narrowed down from over 500 applicants.

Finalists Caliesha Edney, Darycha Lynch, Breanna Jackson-Reid, Skye Richmond, Shakirra Ugle, Tiarnna Wynne, Daisy Humphries, Kiahara Jacobs and Kae Cox are taking part in the annual six-week leadership and empowerment program.

Co-founder Glenda Kickett said despite the crowning of one winner at the end of the program, the great achievement of MISS NAIDOC Perth is building the capacity of the participants.

“The satisfaction is just seeing the girls grow and develop in their confidence, with their self-esteem, with their cultural connections, and seeing them think about what this future would be and what they would like to achieve in the next five years,” Kickett said.

“I think that’s really important for our women, for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, because we don’t have the same opportunities as other women.

“This program provides a bit of a pathway for the girls, and they know they’ve got other Aboriginal women that are standing there beside them and helping them.”

Miss NAIDOC Perth 2021 finalists. Photo supplied.

The Miss NAIDOC Perth program puts participants through six weeks of workshops, and at the end of the program one deadly young woman is crowned Miss NAIDOC Perth.

The newly appointed Miss NAIDOC Perth becomes an ambassador for NAIDOC Week at events around the WA capital.

The program is just over 10 years old now and was designed by Kickett and co-founder Shannon McGuire to have more substance than a traditional beauty pageant.

“We wanted the girls actually take something away with them from being participants, so we thought of an empowerment and leadership program,” Kickett said.  

“It’s really about getting the girls to think to about their own cultural values and the things that they come with — a lot of our families have that intergenerational trauma. It’s [about] understanding the legacies of colonisation and how we then acknowledge that and move forward together.”

One of this year’s participants, Skye Richmond, is a Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Yawuru and Nyul Nyul woman with connections to the Pilbara and Kimberley.

She is the only queer participant in the program this year and said going into the program was nerve-wracking.

“I think I was quite nervous going in because you never know people’s reactions,” she said.

“Even though I’d say [people are] mostly progressive, there’s still a little bit of queerphobia, homophobia, and transphobia within different communities, so I was a little bit nervous about that.”

Skye Richmond is one of nine finalists in this year’s Miss NAIDOC Perth. Photo supplied.

“But … everyone involved has been so great and so accepting. It’s just been a really good experience.”

Skye said in its first four weeks, the program has already given her life-long friendships.

“There is already a sisterhood there — we’ve only known each other for a couple of weeks but we’re sisters now, for life.”

Miss NAIDOC Perth 2021 will be crowned on Saturday July 10.

By Sarah Smit