Showing posts with label indigenous culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indigenous culture. Show all posts

Monday, 17 June 2019

Australian mainstream media learns another lesson as to why racism is bad policy

BuzzFeed News, 13 June 2019:

Channel Seven has failed in its bid to strike out a lawsuit brought by a group of Aboriginal people who say they were defamed during a now infamous panel discussion on breakfast TV show Sunrise about adopting Indigenous children.
Yolngu woman Kathy Mununggurr and 14 others from the remote community of Yirrkala, including adults and children, are suing the TV network after they were depicted in blurred overlay footage that played during the segment in March 2018.

In the discussion, hosted by Samantha Armytage, commentator Prue Macsween said of the Stolen Generations that “we need to do it again, perhaps”, and then-radio host Ben Davis said Aboriginal kids are getting “abused” and “damaged”.

The comments made by the all-white panel provoked protests outside the Sunrise studio in Sydney's CBD.

Mununggurr and the adults suing argue they were identifiable in the footage and that by playing it during the discussion Sunrise had suggested they abused, assaulted or neglected children, were incapable of protecting their children, and were members of a dysfunctional community.

The children suing say the program defamed them by suggesting they had been raped and assaulted, and were so vulnerable to danger that they should be removed from their families.

The group is also suing for breach of confidence and breach of privacy, as well as misleading and deceptive conduct and unconscionable conduct under the Australian Consumer Law.

The TV network tried to strike out all aspects of the lawsuit in a Federal Court hearing on Wednesday afternoon, but was slapped down by Justice Steven Rares, who said all the issues could and should be argued at trial…..

"This is about an Aboriginal community. They’re all very close. The neighbours know each other, they all know each other," the judge said.

"You’ve got a whole community up there, most of whom will be able to recognise each other, obviously some of whom who watch Sunrise, or whatever the show is called."…...

Rares accepted there was an argument that Davis and the radio station 4BC were being promoted during the segment, but was less convinced when it came to Macsween.

“To me she’s a nobody. I’ve never heard of her and I’ve got no idea what contribution she possibly could have made to the program,” he said.

Nonetheless Rares sided with Catanzariti and declined to strike out the claim.
Seven's attempts to strike out the remaining claims of breach of confidence, breach of privacy and unconscionable conduct were similarly rejected.

Seven was ordered to pay the costs of the hearing.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Gunditjmara: honouring the past and the present

The Guardian, 10 January 2017. Photo Budj Bim

The Guardian, 23 May 2019. Photo Denis Rose

The volanic eruption of Budj Bim (Mt. Eccles) around 30,000 years ago was witnessed by the Gunditjmara people and the subsequent lava flow formed rock over an area 18 kms long & 8 kms wide.

This easily worked, durable rock turned the people into stone masons and around 6,600 years ago allowed them to create one of the world's largest aquaculture systems.

The Guardian, 23 May 2019:

A 6,600-year-old, highly sophisticated aquaculture system developed by the Gunditjmara people will be formally considered for a place on the Unescoworld heritage list and, if successful, would become the first Australian site listed exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural value.

Known as the Budj Bim cultural landscape, the site in south-west Victoria is home to a long dormant volcano, which was the source of the Tyrendarra lava flow.

The Gunditjmara people used the volcanic rock to manage water flows from nearby Lake Condah to exploit eels as a food source, constructing an advanced system of channels and weirs. They manipulated water flows to trap and farm migrating eels and fish for food. It is one of the oldest aquaculture systems in the world.

On Tuesday night in Paris, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world, officially recommended world heritage status for Budj Bim. The nomination will be formally considered by the world heritage committee in the final step in the process in July.

The Budj Bim cultural landscape is largely managed by the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, who also protect the Gunditjmara-owned properties along the lava flow. The project manager and also elder, Denis Rose, said the homes challenge the idea that all Aboriginal people were hunter-gatherers.

“There are around 200 registered and recorded stone house sites, so people were living a sedentary life,” Rose said. “The area had such a reliable water supply from Darlot Creek, and the traditional name for that creek is Killara, which means ‘always there’. It’s a very appropriate name because even during the dry this year, it was still running.”

The Gunditjmara traditional owners have led the process to have Budj Bim added to the world heritage list, and Rose said the recognition would lead to the site being better protected and managed.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Yaegl Aboriginal cultural heritage areas in the Clarence Valley to be mapped

Clarence Valley Council, media release:

Mayor: Jim Simmons LOCKED BAG 23 GRAFTON NSW 2460
General Manager: Ashley Lindsay Telephone: (02) 6643 0200

April 15, 2019

Mapping areas of Yaegl Aboriginal cultural heritage

A PROJECT that aims to help protect areas of cultural value to the Aboriginal community is about to get under way in the Clarence Valley.

Representatives of the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, the Office of Environment and Heritage and Clarence Valley Council recently signed a memorandum of understanding for a cultural mapping project of the Clarence.

The project aims to identify and map known and “high potential” areas of Aboriginal heritage to ensure culturally appropriate information is used to inform conservation and local plans.

The MoU says plans, which include cultural heritage management initiatives, are intended to better protect Aboriginal heritage within or adjacent to all mapped areas.

“Assessment of the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System data and extensive field surveys in company with nominated cultural representatives to validate and record data is also a necessary project component,” it says.

The project aims to produce 1:25,000 scale topographic maps for the Yaegl Native Title Claimed Area, annotated with “known” and “high potential” areas of Aboriginal cultural heritage, within and immediately adjacent to the Clarence Valley local government area.

Once complete, a training program will be developed for Yaegl site officers, Clarence Valley Council staff and other appropriate agencies.

Release ends.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

In which Clarence Valley Council fails to take due consideration of biodiversity & only pays lip service to potential cultural landscape when voting on an inadequately researched council master plan

Wooded area above the dirt road seen in the bottom right-hand corner of this snapshot was that section of land covered by the Clarence Valley Regional Airport Master Plan which figured prominately in councillors' debate.

When the regular monthly meeting of predominately white, middle-aged male, elected councillors in a NSW local government area again deliberately choose to have the meeting opened with a prayer
* by yet another 'ordained' representative of one of the Protestant religious institutions named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it can only go downhill from there - and it did.

Predictably Cr. Williamson sought to close down debate at the earliest opportunity with regard to any alternative approach to planning issues surrounding adoption of a master plan on council-owned operational land.

Just as predictably Cr. Baker displayed a level of ignorance concerning everything from how far a 10 km radius surrounding airport land actually stretched (seems he believed it went as far as est. 25kms southeast to Wooli beach) through to the professional conduct of accredited ecologists and motives behind their reports ( a subject on which he sounded more than a little paranoid).

However, the incident that would have had regular council watchers sitting up in their seats occurred when the council general manager rather aggressively inserted himself into the debate uninvited and without permission, by directing a question to an elected councillor. 

Which immediately raised the question - has he caught a bad case of the dreaded Greensill-itis and if so can it be cured?

The Daily Examiner, 28 May 2019, p.1:

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons has apologised for a procedural error which led to a councillor walking out of the chamber during a heated debate.

At Tuesday’s Clarence Valley Council meeting Cr Greg Clancy accused the council of gagging debate on a proposed Master Plan for the Grafton Regional Airport, before departing from the chamber without seeking leave.

Cr Clancy had moved a motion calling for environmental reports and information about Aboriginal heritage in the area to be included in the plan, which sparked a fierce argument among the councillors.

After about an hour of questions and debate Cr Richie Williamson, moved the motion be put, but this sparked an outbreak of interjections.

“What, are we being gagged right down the line?” interjected Cr Peter Ellem.

Mayor Jim Simmons adjourned the meeting for 10 minutes to seek advice on the matter.

“When the meeting resumed Cr Clancy came in to gather some things and I did apologise to him at the time, but he didn’t stay.”

Cr Simmons said he didn’t think council would act on some strong language Cr Clancy used at the time.

“Greg is a very strong advocate for the environment and I can understand he was disappointed how things were going,” he said.

“I’m very disappointed how things panned out and other than some language about gagging debate, I can’t really recall what was said.”

Cr Simmons blamed himself for the mistaken ruling, which inflamed the situation.
“What I said didn’t help the situation and I take full responsibility for that,” he said.

He said the council code of meeting practice required councillors to seek permission to leave the chamber early, which Cr Clancy did not do, but he did not think councillors would seek to take this further.

“In my view it would have been better for Greg to stay in the chamber,” he said.

“Councillors voted against his motion, 5-3 I think from memory, so it was a close thing.”

Cr Simmons said the meeting did approve the plan on a motion from Cr Ellem, which called for involvement of the Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council in any development planning for the site.

Clarence Valley Council posted the 26 March 2019 podcast of this meeting on its website where it will remain for twelve months and, at approx. 2hrs 4 mins into the podcast the debate of Item 15.031/19 can be heard - but don't expect to hear the entire debate.

Because it appears that at a vital moment in his response to being improperly gagged by the mayor Cr. Clancy did not have his microphone turned on.

I have been given to understand that one of his observations was words to the effect that democracy is dead in the Clarence Valley.

An observation that in my opinion is frequently applicable to both local and state governments.

* It should be noted that Cr. Clancy did not agree with a 2017 change to Clarence Valley Council's Code of Meeting Practice which formally established an opening prayer as well as a rota of ordained Protestant ministers praying over the elected councillors and members of the vistors' gallery at the start of each ordinary monthly meeting.

Friday, 18 January 2019

As the land grows hotter and drier, the storms and fires more violent, as we watch the rampant greed of the few decimate our forests and destroy our water sources......

..... there is some comfort in knowing that there are still some Australian communities trying to come together to care for country.

North East Forest Alliance, media release, 30 August 2018:

Githabul Tribe and Conservation Groups Reach Historic Agreement

The Githabul Tribe, Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Githabul Elders and representatives of conservation groups today launched their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the management of Githabul Native Title Lands in the upper Clarence and Richmond Rivers.

On 29 November 2007 the Federal Court of Australia made a consent determination recognising the Githabul People’s Native Title rights and interests over 1120 sq km in 9 National Parks and 13 State Forests.

The MoU proposes:

·       Transferring care and control of 29,700ha State Forests for which Githabul Native Title rights are recognised, from the NSW government to the Githabul Tribe.
·       Preparing a comprehensive Plan of Management to safeguard conservation and cultural values and prioritise rehabilitation works.
·       Achieving an adequately funded comprehensive 15 year rehabilitation plan to arrest and repair forest dieback as part of a Githabul caring for country program.
·       Creating more NPWS positions and training for Githabul Working on Country in National Parks in the Kyogle area.
·       Transferring the care and control of Crown lands around the Tooloom Falls Aboriginal Place to the Githabul Tribe.
·       Promoting the establishment of a Cultural and Tourism Centre at Roseberry Creek.
·       Obtaining World Heritage Listing for the National Parks in the region.

30 August 2018

Githabul spokesperson Rob Williams said:

It is important to understand and acknowledge that the health of the Githabul people in general is directly related to the health of the surrounding country and vice versa.

This philosophy underpins the Githabul wish to immediately arrest what is seen as a decline in the health of the forests and waterways over many decades now.

Such is our connection to country that we all suffer - along with the plants and animals. We still feel we have a direct responsibility to maintain the natural balance between all inter- related species including ourselves, as was done for millennia before the colonial invasion.

North East Forest Alliance spokesperson Dailan Pugh said:

The Forestry Corporation has already abandoned 11,000 hectares of these State Forests for timber production because of the chronic dieback they are suffering from past logging, and the balance of the Githabul lands are in an equally parlous state.

Already the Government is proposing that 5,600 ha of State Forests around Mount Lindesay be transferred to the management of NPWS as a Koala reserve, but without the massive funding needed to rehabilitate the forests.

The Githabul have a proven track-record in rehabilitating dieback areas and we are excited by the prospect of supporting their native title rights while helping to obtain the funding needed to scale up their rehabilitation works to stop the ongoing degradation and begin to restore the health of these internationally significant forests.

National Parks Association CEO Alix Goodwin said:

NPA is committed to protecting NSW public native forests for their biodiversity conservation values for future generations. Working with the Githabul to rehabilitate and restore almost 30,000 hectares on the north coast is a great start to achieving this vision.

The MOU also marks an important milestone in achieving the protection of important koala habitat in the Western Border Ranges, the connection of seven existing World Heritage properties and a recognised biodiversity hotspot under the stewardship of the local Aboriginal community.

We look forward to working with the Githabul to implement this MOU, the first NPA agreement with an Aboriginal community in over a decade.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolksi said:

We believe that effective nature conservation and land justice for Indigenous Australians go hand in hand.

We welcome today’s announcement and hope this proves to be a successful model that can be adopted in other areas.

The MoU is an agreement between the Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation and Githabul Elders, and the North East Forest Alliance, North Coast Environment Council, National Parks Association, Nature Conservation Council, Nimbin Environment Centre, Lismore Environment Centre and Casino Environment Centre.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Aboriginal Australia discovered the variability of a bright red supergiant star in the shoulder of Orion millennia before Western science did

Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 21(1), 7‒12 (2018), Bradley E. Schaefer Department of Physics and Astronomy, Louisiana State University, “YES, ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS CAN AND DID DISCOVER THE VARIABILITY OF BETELGEUSE”:

Abstract: Recently, a widely publicized claim has been made that the Aboriginal Australians discovered the variability of the red star Betelgeuse in the modern Orion, plus the variability of two other prominent red stars: Aldebaran and Antares. This result has excited the usual healthy skepticism, with questions about whether any untrained peoples can discover the variability and whether such a discovery is likely to be placed into lore and transmitted for long periods of time. Here, I am offering an independent evaluation, based on broad experience with naked-eye sky viewing and astro-history. I find that it is easy for inexperienced observers to detect the variability of Betelgeuse over its range in brightness from V = 0.0 to V = 1.3, for example in noticing from season-to-season that the star varies from significantly brighter than Procyon to being greatly fainter than Procyon. Further, indigenous peoples in the Southern Hemisphere inevitably kept watch on the prominent red star, so it is inevitable that the variability of Betelgeuse was discovered many times over during the last 65 millennia. The processes of placing this discovery into a cultural context (in this case, put into morality stories) and the faithful transmission for many millennia is confidently known for the Aboriginal Australians in particular. So this shows that the whole claim for a changing Betelgeuse in the Aboriginal Australian lore is both plausible and likely. Given that the discovery and transmission is easily possible, the real proof is that the Aboriginal lore gives an unambiguous statement that these stars do indeed vary in brightness, as collected by many ethnographers over a century ago from many Aboriginal groups. So I strongly conclude that the Aboriginal Australians could and did discover the variability of Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, and Antares.
Keywords: Aboriginal astronomy, variable stars: Betelgeuse, Antares, Aldebaran

Original paper by Duane W. Hamacher, Monash Indigenous Studies Centre, Monash University,  “Observations of red–giant variable stars by Aboriginal Australians” at

Both papers are well worth a read by everyone who has ever looked up at the night skies in wonder.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Science never was the exclusive property of Western civilisations

News Corps goes to battle in the seemingly neverending culture wars, 2  November 2018

The Guardian, 2 November 2018:

I have recently been involved in working on a project that aims to provide teachers with some insights and elaborations on how to teach the mandated science outcomes in the Australian National Curriculum by using historic and contemporary examples from Indigenous people and communities.

The work combined various Indigenous and non-Indigenous scientists, science educators, curriculum experts, teachers, academics and editors. It looked at examples of traditional land management practices, understandings of chemical reactions and processes, astronomy, medicines and any number of fascinating topics of how Indigenous peoples have worked scientifically for millennia in Australia, and still do. It was a great project to be a part of.

I was quietly hoping this important project would fly under the radar of the ongoing culture wars that exist within Australia, but it seems that was wishful thinking.
It began with a piece on the Daily Telegraph website titled “Fire starting and spear throwing make national science curriculum”. Not quite unfortunately, it would be great if they were though.

I can see how it makes for a better headline though. “Fire starting and spear thrower are two examples of 95 different optional elaborations that teachers can use to help them meet the mandatory outcomes of the National Science Curriculum if they want to” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

"I can’t fathom the hubris required to think that after 60,000 years or so of being in Australia, Indigenous people wouldn’t have picked up a thing or two that the rest of the world could learn from."

If you want to understand the science of how a lever works, about stored energy and kinetic energy, or about mass, acceleration, inertia, and lots of other cool stuff that is mandatory in the curriculum, then a spear thrower is a great way to teach it.

And did you know that before the match was invented in 1826, most people around the world had to light fires the old fashion way? And by “old fashioned way”, I either mean by a fire saw, fire drill, fire plough, or by using flint. All of these examples can be found traditionally in Australia and you can use these methods to teach about combustion, friction, heat energy, kinetic energy, density, and any other number of cool sciencey things.

The article goes on with the standard emotive phrases we see in the culture wars: “racial politics”, “dumbing down”, “slammed by critics” – literally all just in the first sentence.

The front page of the Daily Telegraph carried the story on its front page on Friday with the headline “School Kooriculum: outrage over Indigenous school scheme”. Sure, “Kooriculum” is awesome and I am definitely stealing that in future, but there is no “scheme” and very little outrage.

There is Kevin Donnelly decrying this work as “political correctness” and claiming it is “dumbing down the school curriculum” even though, again, these resources are entirely optional, and have been created in response to requests from teachers.

Donnelly argues that “western scientific thought, based as it is on rationality, reason and empiricism, is not culturally determined”. He quotes Professor Igor Bray as saying that “science knows nothing about the nationality or ethnicity of its participants, and this is its great unifying strength”.

He talks about how Western science is “preeminent” in its value to the world, and can be traced back “through the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment to the early Roman and Greek scientists, mathematicians and philosophers”. So it seems that while science knows nothing of nationality or ethnicity, Kevin Donnelly does know that it traces back to the Greeks and Romans, and clearly thinks that what he calls “western science” is superior to all others.

Thousands of years before western science was even dreamed of, Indigenous Australians were developing a detailed and intricate understanding of, and relationship with, the world around them.

It allowed people to intimately understand the relationships of the moon and the tides, measure the equinoxes and solstices, develop a deep wealth of knowledge of plants, animals, seasons, the stars and countless other amazing feats of intellect and ingenuity that have long been denied in the ongoing narrative western civilisation has created about Indigenous peoples.

The ways in which this knowledge was interwoven with a holistic view of the world and the place of humans within it, the ways in which it was encoded and handed down through the ages is fascinating as well. Instead, Indigenous people have long been framed as primitive, backwards, deviant, having nothing of value to offer apart from free land and free labour, in constant need of saving, and deserving of countless punitive measures.

Western science can indeed trace much of its origins back to Greek and Roman societies and in exploring its rich history over the centuries, it’s not a bad idea to look at all the unscientific beliefs that were once science fact.

Read the full article by Luke Pearson here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Clarence Valley Council fined and facing potential million dollar court judgment for destroying red bean scar tree in Grafton between 2013 & 2016

A Red Bean mahogany tree* that is estimated to have stood on the floodplain before the first British-European set foot in the Clarence Valley is no more and no amount of local government mea culpas will ever bring it back.

200 year old Red Bean Scar Tree after 2013 lopping: Image The Daily Examiner

The Daily Examiner
, 20 September 2018, p1:

A former Clarence Valley mayor has publicly apologised for the removal of a culturally significant tree from a Grafton street, which has the potential to cost the Clarence Valley Council $1.1million.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Cr Richie Williamson unreservedly apologised to the Aboriginal community for the removal of a scar tree over a period from 2013 to 2016, when he was mayor.

The council was discussing a response to a Land and Environment Court case in which the council had pleaded guilty to removing the remains of a scar tree on the corner of Breimba and Dovedale streets in 2016.

The history of the tree’s removal over that time is a record of council bungling, which had already cost the council $1500 for breaching the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

In 2013 council staff lopped the crown of the tree after an aboriculture inspection found the tree to be in poor condition.

In response the council provided staff with training in dealing with items of cultural significance to Aboriginal people, introduced staff to the Office of Environment and Heritage’s handbook on scar trees, tightened up procedure to ensure approval and assessments were completed and preparation of a Clarence Valley Aboriginal Heritage Study.

Despite this, three years later council staff completely removed the tree without approval from higher management, provoking an OEH investigation that has led to the Land and Environment Court case, which is ongoing.

During the debate, Cr Williamson addressed the meeting to tell of his deep embarrassment on behalf of the council and personal and deep sadness at the actions that led to the removal of the tree.

“I met with a number of Elders who were deeply, deeply hurt by the action of the council,” he said.

“I also recall it was around the time of NAIDOC Week and it was very sad for them and the hurt was clearly displayed on their faces.”

Cr Williamson said the destruction of the tree should never have happened and he remained remorseful for the actions of others.

“I’m sure we all in this chamber would expect and are striving for better within our organisation,” he said.

“We have come some way, but clearly we have a long way to go.”

The council voted unanimously to support an apology to the Aboriginal community and other measures.


The red bean or Miva mahogany is a rainforest tree in the mahogany family, Meliaceae. Dysoxylum mollissimum subsp. molle occurs in tropical, sub-tropical and littoral rainforests in eastern Australia, as far southwards as north-eastern New South Wales.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

About water and belonging

Clarence River, New South Wales Far North Coast. Image at

Virginia Marshall, February 2017, Overturning Aqua Nullius: securing Aboriginal water rights, excerpt:

Water landscapes hold meaning and purpose under Aboriginal laws. After thousands of years, the spiritual relationship of being part of Country remains integral, and despite the significant political and social change heaved upon the lives of Aboriginal communities the sacredness of water shapes the identity and values of Aboriginal peoples.

The creation story that opens this chapter recognises the relationship of Nyikina peoples to the river system, the land and the liyan (spirit) in its peoples and all things on Nyikina Country. Nyikina peoples have a name for the river, mardoowarra (the Fitzroy River), and yimardoowarra means Nyikina peoples ‘belong’ to the lower part of the mardoowarra. Underground water, which travels through neighbouring Aboriginal land, creates a joint responsibility.

Aboriginal water management, as discussed in a Northern Territory study of water values and interests in the Katherine Region, represents a complex web of relationships:

Every aspect of water as a phenomena and physical resource as well as the hydro morphological features it creates is represented and expressed in the languages of local Aboriginal cultures: mist, clouds, rain, hail, seasonal patterns of precipitation, floods and floodwater, river flows, rivers, creeks, waterholes, billabongs, springs, soaks, groundwater and aquifers, and the oceans (saltwater).

The inherent relationships of Aboriginal peoples with land and water are regulated by traditional knowledge. For generations Aboriginal peoples have developed significant water knowledge for resource use. Aboriginal water knowledge, traditional sharing practices, climate and seasonal weather knowledge underpin water use knowledge. Aboriginal customary water use cannot be decoupled from the relationship with the environment and water resources because Aboriginal water concepts are central to community and kinship relationships. Unlike Western legal concepts, water cannot be separated from the land because Aboriginal creation stories have laid the foundations for Aboriginal water values.

Monday, 2 July 2018

NAIDOC Week 2018 - Sunday 8 July to Sunday 15 July

Under the theme - Because of Her, We Can! - NAIDOC Week 2018 will be held nationally from Sunday 8 July and continue through to Sunday 15 July.

As pillars of our society, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played – and continue to play - active and significant roles at the community, local, state and national levels.

As leaders, trailblazers, politicians, activists and social change advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women fought and continue to fight, for justice, equal rights, our rights to country, for law and justice, access to education, employment and to maintain and celebrate our culture, language, music and art.

They continue to influence as doctors, lawyers, teachers, electricians, chefs, nurses, architects, rangers, emergency and defence personnel, writers, volunteers, chief executive officers, actors, singer songwriters, journalists, entrepreneurs, media personalities, board members, accountants, academics, sporting icons and Olympians, the list goes on.

They are our mothers, our elders, our grandmothers, our aunties, our sisters and our daughters.

Sadly, Indigenous women’s role in our cultural, social and political survival has often been invisible, unsung or diminished.

For at least 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have carried our dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that have kept our culture strong and enriched us as the oldest continuing culture on the planet.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were there at first contact.

They were there at the Torres Strait Pearlers strike in 1936, the Day of Mourning in 1938, the 1939 Cummeragunja Walk-Off, at the 1946 Pilbara pastoral workers' strike, the 1965 Freedom Rides, the Wave Hill walk off in 1966, on the front line of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972 and at the drafting of the Uluru Statement.

They have marched, protested and spoken at demonstrations and national gatherings for the proper recognition of our rights and calling for national reform and justice.

Our women were heavily involved in the campaign for the 1967 Referendum and also put up their hands to represent their people at the establishment of national advocacy and representative bodies from the National Aboriginal Congress (NAC) to ATSIC to Land Councils and onto the National Congress for Australia’s First Peoples.
They often did so while caring for our families, maintaining our homes and breaking down cultural and institutionalised barriers and gender stereotypes.

Our women did so because they demanded a better life, greater opportunities and - in many cases equal rights - for our children, our families and our people.

They were pioneering women like Barangaroo, Truganini, Gladys Elphick, Fannie Cochrane-Smith, Evelyn Scott, Pearl Gibbs, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Celuia Mapo Salee, Thancoupie, Justine Saunders, Gladys Nicholls, Flo Kennedy, Essie Coffey, Isabel Coe, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Eleanor Harding, Mum Shirl, Ellie Gaffney and Gladys Tybingoompa.

Today, they are trailblazers like Joyce Clague, Yalmay Yunupingu, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Nova Peris, Carol Martin, Elizabeth Morgan, Barbara Shaw, Rose Richards, Vonda Malone, Margaret Valadian, Lowitja O’Donoghue, June Oscar, Pat O’Shane, Pat Anderson Jill Milroy, Banduk Marika, Linda Burney and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks – to name but a few.

Their achievements, their voice, their unwavering passion give us strength and have empowered past generations and paved the way for generations to come.

Because of her, we can!