The theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week is Because of Her We Can, highlighting the crucial role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women play in their communities and nationally. Too often their voices and contributions are ignored, stolen or marginalised. This NAIDOC Week provides the opportunity to offer the recognition and respect these women deserve.
Remarkable women such as Fanny Cochrane, Evelyn Scott and Faith Thomas shaped Australian history. To hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women today, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO, the first woman appointed to that position, launched the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) project, which represents the first time in over three decades the federal government has funded a national engagement project with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. As Commissioner Oscar asserts, “We must nurture and teach our young Indigenous women to be strong in their sense of identity and individual and collective worth.” The project is travelling nationally to hear from women in their own words about their lived experiences, priorities, challenges and aspirations for themselves, their families and their futures – beyond, as the Commissioner notes, the existing “narrow frame of victimhood and dysfunction.” No woman need miss out – the project is also accepting online submissions until November.
Collectively, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women significantly contribute to the nation. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are increasingly engaging in formal education and achieving higher academic levels, with a 45% increase in 2014-15 from 2008. Over one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women surveyed reported providing care and support for someone in need, showing the vital and often overlooked role they play in strengthening social and family networks. See more of the ABS facts celebrating the achievements of these women.