Talei Elu is a Saibai Koedal (crocodile) woman from the small Torres Strait Islander community of Seisia in the remote Cape York, Queensland. Talei worked in Canberra for 6 years in the Indigenous Affairs sector for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the National Indigenous Australians Agency and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). Talei has used her experience as an Indigenous Affairs public servant, creative media skills and community-minded activism to start initiatives in Seisia based around caring for Country, culture and community.
In 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Talei returned home to Seisia to focus more of her time on community-based initiatives and activism that tackle structural issues through action and storytelling. Since returning home to Seisia, Talei has worked with the Australian Electoral Commission to enrol and educate more local Mob about the importance of voting. Talei also arranged for local women to receive free feminine hygiene products, baby necessities, and beauty and self-care items.
Talei also founded Seisia Sports and Rec, a free sports equipment hire initiative for youth to get involved in sport and sporting activities. Talei regularly organises beach clean-ups as a way to care for country and increase community involvement due to the amount of marine debris that washes up on the shores of Seisia. Talei was also recently named as the youngest Co-Chair and member of the First Nations Consultative Committee. The committee consists of 8 First Nations community peoples from different Queensland regions who provide consultative advice from their communities to the Queensland Government to develop the Queensland Indigenous Voice.
Talei also captures and records local stories and language through photography and film. Through Talei’s work in cultural preservation, media, photography, and her wide social media reach, she is able to amplify the voices of grassroots community people and catalogue and record aspects of culture and language.
Talei, along with community members of Seisia, has also been successful in lobbying government and Telstra to improve telecommunications infrastructure in her region. Incredibly, after a year-long struggle, she and her community have now secured Telstra infrastructure that would support 4G in Seisia and New Mapoon community on Cape York.
In 2023, Talei was the Queensland state recipient of the Young Australian of the Year Award for her committed work and advocacy for her community of Seisia. Talei is currently living between Canberra and Seisia, studying a Master of Applied Cybernetics at the Australian National University, learning about the interaction between systems, technology and creating sustainable futures.
Talei is also known for her creative talents, and between her Masters studies at ANU and community projects, also works part time for Common Ground to amplify and back First Nations voices, embed Indigenous knowledge’s across the education and legal systems, and work to strengthen cultures and languages for future generations.
Talei is a humble, driven and passionate community advocate who works at the grassroots level, identifying needs and creating solutions to ensure better outcomes for Seisia, the Cape York and Torres Strait, as well as the protection of her community, Country, culture and Language.