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Danielle Hobday’s meteoric rise has taken her from an isolated rural family to shaping the future of her community. But despite the concessions she has won, she knows that the important battles are ahead of her.
As we progress further down the path we donate our lives to, we sometimes pause to reflect on the towering obstacles we clamoured over to get there, the seemingly minor conversations that became major, and those abject moments where things have could have gone either way. While our drive certainly factors in where we end up, the support of those around us, large or small, certainly does also.
The path that Solicitor Danielle Hobday has walked is certainly one to admire, and emulate, as she pushes to disrupt the legal and societal status quo between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The path to ensuring that change was not a straight line. Hailing from a Central Coast farming family, Danielle’s parents placed an importance on her education, which after her HSC saw her father casually prod her into applying for a law degree at UNSW, one she had no interest in, nor confidence in herself to complete. At the time, she tritely believed that she “wasn’t smart enough.” As a proud Indigenous woman, her original goal was the NSW Police Force, desiring a link to her community, hoping to bridge the division of understanding, to reverse the appalling statistics of Indigenous peoples held by the system. She was soon faced with a question: “Which way could I do more? As an aboriginal police officer or a lawyer?”
The days that followed were bathed in pre-morning darkness, enduring a daily roundtrip of six hours to UNSW, with law books waiting on either side of each journey. For the first semester, her life was little more than travel-uni-sleep-repeat. Her marks began to suffer, and the grand ideal of change was almost felled by life’s small problems. The money she earned on the weekends was just enough to make ends meet, and her parents certainly could not foot the bill for her campus accommodation.
Something had to give.
Fortunately, she persisted. Soon thereafter, she won a scholarship with Shalom Gamarada, a program that provides residency on campus for Indigenous students, and she was soon able to focus on building her future. As she illustrated, “(They) offered help and support in a time that was really needed.”
Since graduation, Danielle has redoubled her efforts to seek equality, to enable, in her oft-repeated words: “systemic change” Her singular pursuit of improving the future conditions of those in her community has walked her through a kaleidoscope of locations, a vista taking in the many angles of the issue writ large. From witnessing the problematic construct of youth detention firsthand, to representing those facing the weight of the legal system without representation, to sitting in boardrooms alongside community and business leaders looking to shape policy and legislation. All in an effort to ensure the next generation doesn’t fall subject to the same problems hers has. “Young people are over-represented in the criminal justice system and Indigenous youth are over-represented among young people in the system,” she says. On that front, Danielle has an extra impetus to ensure better conditions for the future, as she stands the extremely proud Mum of two alongside her partner, both of whom are now graduates of law and alumuni of the Shalom Gamarada program.
From wanting to join the Police ranks to prevent discrimination, she now holds the same organisation accountable from her post at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Danielle’s example has seen her quickly become an important pillar of inspiration to the Indigenous community; not least to her younger brothers, who have followed her lead into tertiary education, pursuing degrees in medicine and criminology. When querying her about the feedback she has received from the community she represents, her voice lifted, articulating the instances of Indigenous youth elucidating on the victories they’ve won, emboldened by her example. Danielle seemingly wears the label of ‘role model’ with steadfast pride, however, she looks to continue the momentum, pursuing her next goal, in which she hopes to join to the bar, and earning the title and responsibilities of Barrister.
Hearing where she came from, and the octaves of her assured tone, you believe that one day we’ll all witness that systemic change she so desperately fights for.
Watch this space.