Story: High Achiever’s Flying Start
Naomi Anstess has done more in 21 years than many do in a lifetime. But as she tells Deadly Vibe, this is only the beginning.
Having a positive role model at an appropriate age can be instrumental in setting you on the right path for life. Naomi Anstess, a Torres Strait Islander university student from Darwin, found such a mentor in the form of educator Tanya Nasir, who runs the Aboriginal and Islander Tertiary Aspirations Program (AITAP) there.
“Tanya is just amazing,” says Naomi. “She’s one of those people who tells you that you can do anything and be anything, but she backs that encouragement up with process – practical advice on how to actually get there.”
The advice and guidance Tanya provided has obviously been taken on board. At just 21, Naomi is doing so much good work in the community that she’s become a bona fide role model herself. Where to begin? Well, why not with the Northern Territory’s Youth Parliament, which Naomi was an active participant in for four years – the first year as Chief Minister, no less!
“Youth Parliament is designed to help young people better understand the parliamentary process, how society works in reality, and how you can make a difference,” she says. “Through that I got to represent Australia at the Millennium Commonwealth Youth Parliament sitting in Manchester in 2000.”
While Naomi enjoyed the experience a great deal, she soon realised her priorities were different to those of many fellow participants.
“Everyone seemed to think the most pressing problem in Australia at present was the fact that not every household has a computer! I couldn’t believe it! I was wanting to focus on issues like education, housing and health, so it caused a bit of conflict.”
Following Youth Parliament, Naomi was invited to join the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group, whose job it is to represent the concerns of Indigenous young people from all corners of the country.
“We consult with the community, work out viable options and report to the Federal Youth Affairs Minister. One of the big issues I’m looking at is juvenile justice and why there are so many people – especially Indigenous people – in the system. In turn I’m relating this back to education.”
Education is a cornerstone of Naomi’s philosophy on life. Currently in her fourth year of a teaching degree at Northern Territory University, she believes it vital that young Australians get to see more Indigenous teachers in the classroom. And not just for the sake of Indigenous kids.
“Mainstream kids need positive Indigenous role models as well. It’s also important to have Indigenous perspectives in our curriculum, and I really believe you have to be Indigenous to deliver that.”
With such a great attitude to learning, it’s little wonder the National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy recently asked Naomi to become one of their Ambassadors, an opportunity she jumped at.
“It’s a wonderful job and I’m really looking forward to meeting all the other Ambassadors in the coming months. One things I want to concentrate on is the importance of partnerships between schools, parents, children and the community.”
Somewhere in among all these competing duties, Naomi finds time to study, and to coach the Territory’s U/12 boys hockey team, and East Darwin’s A-grade women and U/16 girls teams! Did we say she made Australia’s youth hockey squad at 17? And that she’s a role model for the Indigenous Sport Program, alongside the likes of Kyle Vander-Kuyp and Lucas Proudfoot?
“I’ve got a really understanding family and a wonderful fiancé, Errol,” says Naomi, explaining her schedule that can only be described as chock-a-block. “And I don’t sleep very much!”
In addition to Tanya Nasir, Naomi cites her parents as major sources of inspiration.
“My dad is just wonderful, and my mum, who is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education worker at Sanderson High School, has always motivated and mentored me. She’s worked so hard for those kids, and now the numbers of Indigenous students attempting and passing Year 12 at the school is higher than ever before.”
Naomi isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, which may explain why her voice is one so many people want to hear. Intelligent, articulate and compassionate, she has all the makings of a future leader.
“Being young, people can’t hurt you yet,” she quips. “I say outright when I think the Government’s not doing something right and how it could be done more efficiently. People seem to think that’s really brave!”
According to Clare Martin, the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister, Naomi is “a wonderful example of a young Territorian whose get-up-and-go attitude and endless community spirit has enabled her to stamp her mark in society. The Northern Territory Government wishes her all the best in her future endeavours – Naomi certainly has all the makings of a future leader.”