Under the theme – Because of Her, We Can! – NAIDOC Week 2018 will be held nationally from Sunday 8 July and continue through to Sunday 15 July.
As pillars of our society, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played – and continue to play – active and significant roles at the community, local, state and national levels.
As leaders, trailblazers, politicians, activists and social change advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women fought and continue to fight, for justice, equal rights, our rights to country, for law and justice, access to education, employment and to maintain and celebrate our culture, language, music and art.
They continue to influence as doctors, lawyers, teachers, electricians, chefs, nurses, architects, rangers, emergency and defence personnel, writers, volunteers, chief executive officers, actors, singer songwriters, journalists, entrepreneurs, media personalities, board members, accountants, academics, sporting icons and Olympians, the list goes on.
They are our mothers, our elders, our grandmothers, our aunties, our sisters and our daughters.
Sadly, Indigenous women’s role in our cultural, social and political survival has often been invisible, unsung or diminished.
For at least 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have carried our dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that have kept our culture strong and enriched us as the oldest continuing culture on the planet.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were there at first contact.
They were there at the Torres Strait Pearlers strike in 1936, the Day of Mourning in 1938, the 1939 Cummeragunja Walk-Off, at the 1946 Pilbara pastoral workers’ strike, the 1965 Freedom Rides, the Wave Hill walk off in 1966, on the front line of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972 and at the drafting of the Uluru Statement.
They have marched, protested and spoken at demonstrations and national gatherings for the proper recognition of our rights and calling for national reform and justice.
Our women were heavily involved in the campaign for the 1967 Referendum and also put up their hands to represent their people at the establishment of national advocacy and representative bodies from the National Aboriginal Congress (NAC) to ATSIC to Land Councils and onto the National Congress for Australia’s First Peoples.
They often did so while caring for our families, maintaining our homes and breaking down cultural and institutionalised barriers and gender stereotypes.
Our women did so because they demanded a better life, greater opportunities and – in many cases equal rights – for our children, our families and our people.
They were pioneering women like Barangaroo, Truganini, Gladys Elphick, Fannie Cochrane-Smith, Evelyn Scott, Pearl Gibbs, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Celuia Mapo Salee, Thancoupie, Justine Saunders, Gladys Nicholls, Flo Kennedy, Essie Coffey, Isabel Coe, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Eleanor Harding, Mum Shirl, Ellie Gaffney and Gladys Tybingoompa.
Today, they are trailblazers like Joyce Clague, Yalmay Yunupingu, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Nova Peris, Carol Martin, Elizabeth Morgan, Barbara Shaw, Rose Richards, Vonda Malone, Margaret Valadian, Lowitja O’Donoghue, June Oscar, Pat O’Shane, Pat Anderson Jill Milroy, Banduk Marika, Linda Burney and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks – to name but a few.
Their achievements, their voice, their unwavering passion give us strength and have empowered past generations and paved the way for generations to come.
Because of her, we can!