Danielle Barker comes from a family of passionate, Mandurah activists, and when she became a state finalist for Miss Universe Australia, with an opportunity to be in the running for a $20,000 grant - she knew just what she would do if she won.
After working in succession law for three years, dealing with wills and estates, Danielle identified a gap in the industry within the Mandurah community which inspired the dream to have a non-profit which would provide free wills and estate advice for Indigenous people.
"I'm originally from New South Wales, and when I moved to WA I noticed there was a much larger Aboriginal community here, and a need for increased Aboriginal legal services was in my mind right away."
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A co-worker at HHG Legal Group's Mandurah office, where Danielle currently practises, had been involved in a project similar in rural Australia, which only increased Danielle's drive to get something started.
"Indigenous people make up two-three percent of Mandurah's population so there is a great demand for this non-profit. It's an evolving idea, but I'm fortunate to be working in an industry that provides, and be surrounded by colleagues who have previously provided Aboriginal legal services."
The most crucial reason behind the importance of Indigenous people having access to wills and estate information, according to Danielle, is to make sure their wishes are honoured.
"When an Aboriginal person dies without a will, their estate is administered according to the laws of intestacy. These are based on nuclear families - whereas in Aboriginal communities it isn't the same structure.
"Aboriginal kinship is a different system, and very often without a will the wrong people can inherit from a deceased person's estate."
Danielle added that when a person makes a will, they appoint an executor who is in charge of their burial wishes and funeral wishes.
"If nobody is appointed it quite often leads to burial disputes. Let's say an Aboriginal person wants to be buried on Aboriginal land - their non-Aboriginal spouse might want something different. It can be costly and there is no clear common law which says who gets to make these decisions."
With a clear goal in mind for what she would do with the prize money, Danielle says she is focusing on her performance in the competition.
"I'm a state finalist for WA and in May we will have Miss West Coast as a preliminary round. From there the selection committee will narrow down WA contestants to compete for the crown.
"The selection process includes interview questions, runways in swimwear and evening gowns and live questions and answers.
"If I were lucky enough to be Miss Universe Australia I would receive the grant and be able to move forward with the non-profit."
Danielle's passion for wills and estates education was sparked by a personal tragedy which occurred earlier in her life.
"One of my friends passed away at the end of 2020. He was young, only 20, and he didn't have a will," she said.
"When I was helping his family in his estate administration I kept thinking about how important it was for every adult to have a will, regardless of their age and the value of their estate."
Danielle said her grandmother Emeritus Professor Jo Barker was another driving force in her life, with the two meeting up regularly to talk about current things happening within the Mandurah community.
"My grandmother is a huge inspiration to me. She was the first occupational therapist in Australia to get a PHD, she chaired the Charles Gardiner board, chaired MANPAC and is currently chair of the Coolibah Care board.
"Over time with our conversations we've identified a need in certain areas - the effects of homelessness, mental health - some people aren't on a level playing field to start with, so we need to make sure we do what we can to empower them."
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