A national project giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women a chance to have their say has moved online as NAIDOC Week with its theme of female empowerment—Because of Her We Can—gets into full swing.
The Wiyi Yani U Thangani, or Women’s Voices project, being run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar, has so far heard from more than 1000 women and girls at gatherings in Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
Similar gatherings will be held in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and the ACT in the next few months.
This week Ms Oscar, who has been travelling the country talking to women, took the quest to the far corners of Australia with the launch of an online survey.
Results from the survey, which is open to women over 18, will form the basis of a report to the Federal Government about what’s important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
“Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to visit every community across the country, so we’ve created another opportunity for women and girls to have their say,” Ms Oscar said.
“In the spirit of self-determination and a human rights-based approach, this project will hear and honour the voices of Indigenous women and girls.
“We want our report to come from a position of strength, because we are strong women.”
The survey, funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, comes 32 years after the first national consultations with Indigenous women by the Aboriginal Women’s Taskforce and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in 1986.
“We stand on the shoulders of all those strong women involved in the Women’s Business report, including Phyllis Daylight and Mary Johnstone,” Ms Oscar said.
“Along with so many of our women leaders, they were persistent, loud and proud and worked tirelessly to bring about change.”
Ms Oscar said women’s input through the survey was critical.
“I want the report to say this is who we are, this is what we’re made of and this is what we want changed to have equality of life in this country,” she said.
Last month Ms Oscar told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva about the feedback she had been getting.
“I have listened to women who tell me that it seems like a crime to be an Indigenous person in Australia,” she told the UN.
“I have listened to the stories behind the sky-rocketing numbers of Indigenous children in out-of-home care. I have met the faces behind the unacceptable statistics that speak to the over-representation of Indigenous women in prison and in rates of family and domestic violence.
“The women I meet are strong and resilient. They tell me they want to have a say in decisions that affect their lives. But they also tell me that their voices are still not being heard about their ideas for solutions.”