Hedland gem gets crown

Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
Sophie proudly received her sash after claiming the title of Miss NAIDOC at the Crown Ballroom in Perth on May 26.
Camera IconSophie proudly received her sash after claiming the title of Miss NAIDOC at the Crown Ballroom in Perth on May 26.

Twenty-two-year-old Port Hedland woman Sophie Coffin has been acknowledged for her strong leadership qualities after being crowned Miss NAIDOC 2018.

The Ngangumarta Yindjibarndi woman was one of nine finalists to take part in the six- week leadership and empowerment program for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

She received the title at a gala event at the Crown Ballroom in Perth on May 26.

Ms Coffin is living in Perth studying a Masters of Law at The University of Western Australia, having completed a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Indigenous Studies in 2017.

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She said she was inspired and encouraged by past participants to enter the competition. In particular, 2017 winner Kearah Ronan, who she met during a leadership program in Perth last year.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to get so I might as well enter it and see how I go’,” she said.

“It was such a big honour to represent Hedland. To be this girl who came from Hedland to the city. I feel like a real country girl.”

She said she would use her title as a platform for addressing important issues and inspiring other young indigenous women. Ms Coffin said the sisterhood between the contestants was extremely powerful.

“Even though it was a competition it never felt like that and it was a really supportive environment,” she said.

“It’s amazing that we could all come together because I wouldn’t have met these girls otherwise.” Despite the constant battle she faces living away from family, Ms Coffin said the bush was no barrier to success when it came to pursing higher education.

“I’m so passionate about Aboriginal rights and I guess that’s why I chose to study,” she said.

“I felt if I knew the law and how to work with it and translate it that’s going to be the most practical way for me to advance Aboriginal rights and to advocate for our rights.

“It’s an area where the most substantial change can be made and I want to contribute to that.”

Ms Coffin intends to return to the Pilbara once she completes her studies to give back to the community and be with her family, who have continued to support her from afar. She said she constantly looked to her family for strength and inspiration, particularly her parents and her aunties.

“Even though I only get to see them a few times a year they’re always on the phone with me and they’re always there for me,” she said.

“Especially my dad. He helps me a lot. It’s what helps me succeed.

“My mum has overcome so many adversities and she’s succeeded in every area of life — in her career, in sport, in parenting, and in the community.

“She’s always inspired me to do as much as I can and make the most of every opportunity and to never stop being humble and grateful for everything that I’m able to do.

“My grandparents were never able to do those things or even to have tertiary education. At that level I’m very lucky.”

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