WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following story contains names of deceased persons.
Latoya has been a valued member of Housing Choices SA’s Common Ground Adelaide community since 2011. Aged just 27, their determination, intellect and extensive accomplishments are only surpassed by modesty and willingness for authentic connection with others. Latoya recently met with Mark, one of HCSA’s Community Development Ocers, at a local city café to explain their journey in becoming active in the fight for Aboriginal human rights, freedom and ending racial discrimination. Latoya’s family descend from Wiradjuri (NSW) and Maori (Aotearoa/New Zealand), and they were born and raised on Kaurna Country of the Adelaide Plains. Latoya spent most of their early childhood around the local church in Iparrityi (Whitmore Square). As a result of a relationship breakdown, Latoya started sleeping rough at aged 17, and less than two years later, moved into a Common Ground apartment in Adelaide’s CBD. “I mostly kept to myself,” explained Latoya, “but I was grateful for Common Ground as it was the first time I’d experienced stable housing since being a young child, as well as getting social support, and access to GP and Dental care, it was a holistic healing opportunity,” Latoya said. Latoya also described becoming involved in Catalyst-Clemente, a University Pathways program made possible through a partnership between Common Ground, Mission Australia and Flinders University. “The program was amazing; I hadn’t even completed Year 9 and here I was enrolled at Flinders University.” Nine years later, Latoya has graduated with an Honours Degree in Social Work and Social Planning, with a first-class grade and a university medal. They were also selected to be a participant in a US study tour for high achieving students that took Latoya to places like New York and Harvard University in Boston.
Latoya is now employed as a casual academic tutor and occasional lecturer across two universities, and in 2021 they will be commencing their PhD. Latoya described meeting Kaurna and Narungga Elder, Tauto Sansbury in 2013 as a turning point in their life, and the moment that inspired them to begin their advocacy work. “I was introduced to Tauto by a community member and became involved in the wider national campaign for treaty,” said Latoya. Since then, under the guidance of Aboriginal Elders, Latoya has organised numerous Aboriginal Rights actions including Invasion Days, establishing the SA branch of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, and has been at the forefront of the struggle against alleged state-sanctioned brutality that was responsible for the death of their brother. Sadly, in late 2019, Tauto passed away. Tauto’s legacy, along with Latoya’s brother’s, will endure forever across this continent. Latoya’s passion and drive for justice has been informed by both their lived experiences, and the experiences of their family and community. Their drive also stems from hearing the stories and realities of those they’ve been privileged to cross paths with during their journey so far. It is Latoya’s hope that wider society will come to realise and act upon its potential to cede power to those who are powerless; for individuals to reflect upon their own privileges that in turn deny rights to others, for Australians to educate themselves about the issues of sovereignty and decolonisation, and for all peoples collectively to find a basis upon which we can begin building relationships that have not yet been grounded. Latoya’s vision for the future is not about reconciliation, it is for radical transformation and daring to dream that little bit bigger to create something completely new.
Housing Choices Australia | Annual Report 2019-20
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