Aretha Brown already has years of activism under her belt, and there’s plenty more to come. The queer artist advocates for young Indigenous people in her home country of Australia through community organising, public speaking, and her art practice.
She first hit national headlines at 16, for her speech at an Invasion Day rally (also known as Australia Day, a celebration of the nation’s founding) in Melbourne, saying: “too long have Aboriginal people been talked about, rather than talked to.” Aretha’s impassioned campaigning and fight to make indigenous history education mainstream led her to be elected the only woman – and youngest ever – Prime Minister of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament in 2017. Since then, her activism profile has grown steadily, with her speaking at the Sydney Opera House at the All About Women festival in 2019.
Her activism is only one part of the impact she’s making: Aretha’s painting “Time Is On Our Side, You Mob” is currently in the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2019 Top Arts exhibition. This year, alongside numerous speaking engagements and public murals around Melbourne, she’ll be continuing her studies at the Victoria College of Arts, leading her all-female punk band, and “working on learning to drive a car.” “(I’m most proud of) not letting the world turn (me) bitter and hard,” she explains. “I’m a queer, Indigenous young woman. I have every reason and right to be mad and resentful. But I will never let that happen.”