Kaleisha Pilkington is still in awe of her peer group’s decision to crown her Miss Kwobordok Perth in this year’s Miss NAIDOC Perth Empowerment and Leadership program.
The 28-year-old Seville Grove mother of six was bestowed the honour in front of hundreds of people at a gala event last month to mark the end of the six-week program.
Miss Pilkington said she had seen the program advertised before and had known of women who had taken part in it previously, but she never thought of entering it herself.
“This year I thought I had finally built up the confidence to do it,” she said.
“I had a lot of encouragement from my daughter and I felt like I had a lot to offer the program and I was in a position where they would have a lot to offer me as well.”
Far more than a just a beauty pageant, the program is open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Perth aged between 18 and 30 years old.
It aims to develop the women’s leadership potential and assist them to develop life skills by gaining self-confidence and self-esteem.
Miss Pilkington is currently completing a nursing degree with Charles Darwin University in the hope of one day becoming a midwife.
She juggles life with her six children – a 10-year-old, seven-year-old, five-year-old twins, a three-year-old and an eight-month-old baby, as well as working three days a week as a project officer.
She said the six-week program seemed to slot in perfectly to her busy routine and it was an experience she would never forget.
“We met every Tuesday evening at a workshop and there was also a sponsors’ dinner, a photo shoot and a women’s cultural day and the crowning night,” she said.
“That power of sisterhood was the best thing I got out of the program.
“It sounds so clichéd but the girls blended so well… it’s not often you get 14 young women together without any cattiness.
“It was amazing to see other Aboriginal women doing well.”
Miss Pilkington will own the title of Miss Kwobordok (Miss Beautiful) Perth for the next 12 months and will be making a few appearances at various events including at this year’s Perth NAIDOC awards.
She hopes to continue to share her passion and raise awareness about Aboriginal mental health, as well as closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, particularly within the healthcare sector.
“I have seen lots of family members and members of the Aboriginal community die from mental health issues and chronic diseases such as diabetes and other preventable diseases,” she said.
“I believe it all stems down to having a culturally safe healthcare system so that they do feel confident and comfortable enough to access it because I feel like that is a huge problem.”