It’s International Women’s Day! A day to celebrate the social, cultural and political achievements of women; a day to raise awareness about women's lobby for gender parity and equality; a day to fundraise for female-focussed charities (IWD, 2021). Here in Australia, it is hugely important that we celebrate Indigenous women, their incredible achievements and rally for the recognition they deserve. None of this should be confined to one day, but today is an important reminder of the incredible achievements of women and the work that still has to happen as we work towards gender equality.
Illustration by Elladoro. Courtesy of Shutterstock, 2021.
This year's theme ‘Choose to Challenge’ calls for everyone to challenge our society. Choose to challenge gender bias and inequality; choose to celebrate women’s achievements. Through challenging our world we can create change and an inclusive world for everyone. This year IWD calls everyone to raise your hands up high in solidarity and post your photos with the hashtags #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021 (IWD, 2021).
For Indigenous women, the fight for recognition and equality is particularly difficult. Indigenous women experience and encounter multiple forms of discrimination and violence based both on gender and race. High rates of incarceration and removal of children show that there is still a long way to go in ensuring that human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are respected (ABC News, 2017). Too often Indigenous voices are not highlighted throughout International Women's Day. As said by Marlee Silva Gamilaroi/Dunghutti writer, podcast host and co-founder of Tiddas 4 Tiddas (ABC, 2020):
“There's no singular female experience or one way "to be a woman," but our differences and what we can learn from each other can be our greatest strengths.”
It is so important that we listen to and learn about Indigenous women’s experiences as well. IWD is a day for all women to come together in solidarity and ‘Choose to Challenge.’
As part of celebrating Indigenous women, here’s some our country’s most notable First Nations women leaders and activists:
2021 SA Australian of the Year Tanya Hosch © Salty Dingo. Courtesy of NITV, 2021.
Tanya Hosch: The Torres Strait Islander woman was just awarded South Australia Australian of the Year (2021). She is the first Indigenous person and second woman to be appointed to the AFL executive. Hosch instigated a review of the anti-vilification policy within the code and fought for an apology for Adam Goodes from the AFL, helping to deliver a new industry framework aimed to stop racism in the game (Knowels, 2020).
Melia Benn: Melia Been is a Mamu and Gunggandji woman and is one of only two practicing Indigenous women barristers at the Queensland Bar. Melia is a member of the Indigenous Lawyers Association of Queensland, the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland and the Far North Medico-Legal Society Inc.This year she was awarded the Australian Lawyers Alliance’s Queensland Civil Justice Award, which recognises individuals or organisations who have displayed an outstanding commitment to the pursuit of justice (Tu, 2020).
Ellen Van Neerven: Ellen Van Neerven, a Mananjali woman is one of the most celebrated poets and writers in Australia and has won many awards for her collection of poems. She co-hosts and produces two podcasts ‘Extraordinary Voices for Extraordinary Times’ and ‘Between the Leaves,’ a feminist podcast that discusses the work that women and gender diverse people do (Tu, 2020).
Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell and Samantha Harris: Each of these incredible Indigenous women have achieved some amazing things within their respective fields. But most recently their article in Marie Claire “The Time is Now” brought about many important conversations. The article is a strong call for the rights of all Indigenous people. Keep your eyes peeled for a post further exploring this later in the week.
Mi-Kaisha NAIDOC Youth of the Year winner, 2019. Courtesy of Celebrating NAIDOC Week, 2019.
Mi Kaisha Masella: Mi Kaisha is a proud Darumbal Murri and Tongan woman. She is a singer, social entrepreneur and political activist with national reach. Through her music she speaks about the issues that impact young Aboriginal people. Mi Kaisha won the 2019 Youth of the Year NAIDOC Award. Also keep an eye out for our upcoming blog this week to learn more about Mi Kaisha (Celebrating NAIDOC Week, 2019).
Of course this is only a select few women, there are thousands of First Nations women doing incredible things. Today, let’s recognise and celebrate all of these women, raising our hands high! This week on the blog will be posting articles featuring strong Indigenous women and their incredible work, keep an eye out for the upcoming posts!
For some listening about First Nations women check out the Wild Black Women Podcast.
And if you’re in Sydney check out the Sydney Opera Houses All About Women Festival.