Saturday, 5 September 2015

Australia, First Peoples & Change

By Trudie Broderick, 2nd year MDP student

Australia’s Indigenous population consists of mainland Aboriginal communities and Torres Strait Island communities in the far north east of the country.  Still recovering from the impact of the Northern Territory intervention, First Nations communities in Australia have been confronted with new challenges over the past two years. The forced closures of more than 100 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia has resonated throughout the country.  The closures coincide with two other major legal shifts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  The first is the deregistration of 21 previously heritage listed sacred sites in the resource rich region - the world’s oldest rock art was among them.  Secondly, the federal government, in partnership companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are supporting the push for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian constitution.

It is well established that Indigenous women are often disproportionately affected by government decisions such as these. Murri Mura Inc. a community organization in Brisbane, Australia, is in the process of developing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Council of Queensland (ATSIWCQ) to ensure a voice within the political arena.

Aunty Mary Graham and Trudie Broderick
Murri Mura Inc. was created by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  It has a long history of political activism in Brisbane and currently works to develop the capacity of the local community.  During my placement with the agency, I worked with Elder, Aunty Mary Graham on innovative developments as a means to building on the existing skills of local First Nations communities.  The main focus of my placement has been to examine Australia’s current political climate and its impact on Indigenous women.  With this in mind, I examined legal structures that might support the entity’s current and future needs.

As a meeting space Murri Mura offered a place for women Elders in the community to develop the ATSIWCQ.  As part of this process, it was critical to approach all decisions for a position of strength, comfortable in the knowledge that our sovereignty is unceded and we therefore have the capacity and the ability to determine for ourselves the most appropriate governing tools.  In this we considered a broad range of issues impacting First Nations women including, our roles as women within the community, participation in politics and governance.  This means continuing to challenge oppressive policies, enhancing our economic independence and prosperity, challenging racism, sexual, domestic and all other forms of violence against First Nations women in Australia.

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