We had the pleasure of taking some time out to chat with Nicole Brown, who was awarded the City of Darwin Citizen of the Year for 2022! Nicole’s story is not only inspiring but shows what a determined mindset can do to move mountains...
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND:
I am a proud Larrakia woman who is focused on breaking stereotypes and wanting people to connect - I am aware that many people don’t like celebrating success and I am working hard to change how our community views successful women. I am also working towards a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Leadership while raising my son as a single mother, so I am a busy person with lots of ambition!
“There are so many interesting cultures in the Top End, and I am excited about local growth and new opportunities - the NT is the place to be!”
WHAT LED TO YOUR ‘CITIZEN OF THE YEAR’ AWARD?
I was nominated for the award based on my passion for driving change and seeing happy faces in our community. I have received some grants for projects and invested funding back into local businesses and community, so it’s important to make a difference through my networks, opportunities and platforms. The flow on effect is far greater than just being about me. I like to create opportunities and experience amazing places, however I don’t have a hidden agenda – this is who I am and what I love doing.
Since becoming the 2022 Citizen of the Year, I feel more motivated to help other people through my connections, especially other women. I am extremely passionate about inspiring young indigenous women by giving them skills and celebrating their success – that’s my passion. I often think; what can I do to bring their voices to the front?
When I received the invitation for the City of Darwin Citizen of the Year ceremony, I didn’t accept the offer as I had family visiting at the time. A representative of the award ceremony called me and encouraged me to attend, so I went along and was very surprised to receive this award – it has opened more doors than I ever imagined.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A FEMALE LEADER?
I escaped a DV environment with my young son six years ago and there were a few life-changing moments that have shaped who I am today. The experience completely changed my life direction, but I feel culturally obligated to be part of the solution and educate other women. I was lucky to get out to country and reconnect with myself for a media event, which helped me to refocus on my passion. Being an indigenous female, I wanted to amplify the voices of other people. I feel so strongly about young leaders and entrepreneurs, so my influence has been focused on teaching young women about embracing their ambition, finding their voice and connecting with strong mentors who share their strength and walk beside them.
Thankfully, there are many young women now who have been given opportunities thanks to other women who have ‘smashed through ceilings’ before us. It has created a ripple effect and I now have people approaching me and asking me questions, so I am humbled to transfer my power to other people through my interactions. I love networking, meeting new people and hearing their stories. I am committed to connecting people and helping to solve problems - I find meaning and purpose in being the light that guides people to new opportunities.
My network is strong and there’s no competition between us. We lift each other up and amplify our voices as a collective community, which has helped us to overcome lateral violence from other indigenous women who are unable to celebrate our success. There’s no need to be competitive and unsupportive – we can all achieve great things! I have been working hard to encourage young people to harness their personal power and be proud of their heritage, culture, journey and history.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING PROJECT THIS YEAR?
In June this year, I received funding to organise a bush camp for one hundred indigenous women focused on healing, leadership and empowerment. Of those one hundred guests, I invited twenty non-indigenous allies who added value across multiple platforms. We had a strong focus on connecting people, utilising local resources and contributing to the indigenous eco-system. I am a strong believer in togetherness, and we need to co-educate so that we can walk hand in hand.
I am committed to doing things with integrity and meaningful engagement, which also includes welcoming defence families to the Top End and sharing cultural stories and history in a positive way. I currently work in Defence industry, so stakeholder relationships are extremely meaningful to me, regardless of a person’s culture or background.
WHO IS YOUR INSPIRATION AND ROLE MODEL?
My Nan is my role model - she has always been an inspiring trailblazer who overcame incredible obstacles and built her family on the same foundation of strong values. Nan experienced the bombings of Darwin, which was a challenging time for all Territorians. After her parents died of Tuberculosis, she was transferred to Darwin with her siblings where they were split across various care homes. Sadly, the children lost contact with their culture, but my Nan was strong, and she was determined to create generations of trailblazers, which is a proud legacy for me. I am also determined to show my son what is possible, which inspires me when I face challenges and need to find solutions for our future.
BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
Be authentic – this is one of my favourite mantras. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s important to follow through with your plans and be reliable. My public persona is also who I am in my personal life, and I am the first to admit that my life isn’t perfect. I have challenges as a single mum with a lot of commitments, but it has made me resilient and prepared me for other challenges. My journey has made me appreciate people a lot more, and I have taught my son about perseverance and creating opportunities - I haven’t let the hard times ruin me and I still want to do more, especially making a difference at ‘grassroots’ level.
FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE TOP END?
I absolutely love Crab Claw Resort; it’s an incredible haven to disconnect from reality and it’s only 90 minutes from ‘civilisation’! I go out there a lot to unwind with Yoga on the beach, breathtaking views and peaceful nights, which helps me to reconnect with my seven senses - one day feels like a week! I spent my childhood around that area and have so many memories of that unchartered territory.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR NICOLE BROWN?
I would love to work with the United Nations when my son is older and learn about human rights. I am constantly upskilling myself to add more value wherever I go, and I like to educate people to develop their own skills, be enthusiastic, follow their ambition and not be reliant on welfare to survive. I also enjoy history, so I would love to do guided tours of historical houses and connect visitors to our community, culture and history.
Following In Their Footsteps is my new business, so I am full speed ahead – watch this space!
Interviewed by Deb Herring Committee Member The Top Ender Magazine