At just 19 years old the young man of Ganggalidda, Garrwa, Waanyi and Gudanji heritage is currently the Team Leader of a youth development program for Save the Children Australia in the Doomadgee community.
At school, Elijah stood out to his teachers including Greg Hanrahan of Spinefex State College in Mount Isa who saw him work hard through Year 12 despite studying away from home.
“It’s easy to identify the people who’ve got a spark and he’s certainly one of those… He’s been a real leader by encouraging people to embrace their traditional practices.”
Elijah was active outside the classroom running cultural events and mentoring other students as Indigenous school captain. During his studies he also undertook work experience at a local health clinic to gain a hands on experience in Aboriginal health to take back home along with his qualifications.
“I want to get experience working in health so that in the future I can promote health, education and employment in Aboriginal communities, not just in Doomadgee but in communities all over Australia,” Elijah told indigenous.gov.au.
At Doomadgee State School he initiated a Student Leadership Council teaching language and culture to both teachers and fellow students.
In 2013, Elijah was one of five Queensland students selected by the Premier’s ANZAC Award Committee to travel to Gallipoli and the Western Front for the ANZAC Day ceremonies.
As the only Indigenous student who applied Elijah’s video application focused on Indigenous soldiers and his curiosity towards Australia’s war history. A keen didgeridoo player he was asked to play at both the Menin Gate Memorial and Anzac Cove ceremony.
Elijah took to the national stage in 2014 during his final year of school. He was nominated for the Pride of Australia Young Leader medal for his enthusiastic leadership and all-round achievements. He also participated in the National Indigenous Youth Parliament in Canberra and later attended the United Nations forum in New York to discuss Indigenous Peoples’ rights and emerging issues.
Elijah was also a participant at the 2015 Queensland Indigenous Youth Leadership Program. As a youth worker he was delighted to be elected as the Youth Minister for Education and gave an impassioned speech about substance abuse.
This political practice will put Elijah in great stead as he aspires to become the first Indigenous Prime Minister of Australia.
However, for now, Elijah’s focus is on his community and his work with the young people there. He told the ABC that his biggest goal for his people is “to keep our culture alive and not to lose it.”
He is currently in the process of writing a book on Aboriginal history and the Dreamtime after completing a record of the personal journeys of the Elders from his community and a novel.
Given all his achievements and his guidance as a role model, it is no surprise that the community of Doomadgee is overwhelmed with pride for this young man.
Watch Elijah's acceptance speech