The Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO has celebrated NAIDOC Week with hundreds of First Nations women at the historic National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s conference in Sydney.
The two day event has celebrated this year’s NAIDOC theme Because of Her We Can, which Commissioner Oscar said delivers a vital message to all.
“It says: we have always been here, and this year we are claiming our rightful place in this nation.
“This is our week, our year to celebrate all of who we are. It is a celebration of our existence.”
Commissioner Oscar said for too long, Indigenous women’s voices have not been heard or recognised.
“For too long our policy-makers, legislators and institutional bodies have been deaf to our voices. Those who have written our history have either ignored us, failed to consider us, or refused to include our names, stories and actions in the deep history of this continent, and the making of the Australian nation. There is no excuse for our absence when we know our women are always present. We have never been, and we are not invisible or silent,” Commissioner Oscar said.
As the first Indigenous women to take up the role of Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar is undertaking national talks with First Nations women with the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) project.
So far, Commissioner Oscar and her team have met with more than one thousand women and girls across the country.
This week, to coincide with NAIDOC, Commissioner Oscar also launched a new online survey for Aboriginal women and girls to have their say in the project.
“It is the first time in 32 years that our voices have been heard as a collective. In 2018, in the year of ‘Because of Her, We Can’, the Government is prepared to listen to our strengths, issues, solutions and the future we want.
“As women tell me of their strengths, they also tell me that they are exhausted. In a society that does not recognise our tireless work, it is unsurprising that the system continues to fail and undermine us. The denial of our voices is a denial of our rights.
“While we are not heard, structural racism pervades our institutions and public spaces. This racism intersects with multiple forms of discrimination, further entrenching intergenerational trauma. This has a disproportional impact on our women. When our work should be celebrated and applauded, we are too often exposed to punitive legal and welfare systems that diminish who we are, and consequently curtail all our people’s rights and freedoms.
“That is why, this year, our year, I am determined to make what we say count. We have a right to speak, a right to act on our intentions and realise our aspirations, not just for us but for our society. It is the obligation of other Australians, of our Australian Government and all states and territories, to listen and respond to us, and to put the structures in place to realise our rights, make our solutions a reality and let us be all of who we are.
“This is our time to act and shape the world that our children will inherit. Our time is now, to be unshakable in our resolve to be all of who we are. It is our moment to rise and say, we can!” Commissioner Oscar said.