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June Oscar celebrates Indigenous women rangers

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Woman Ranger © Wayne Quillam for the Commission as part of the Wiyi Yanu U Thangani project

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar has spoken powerfully about the vital role of Indigenous women in creating and maintaining cohesive social infrastructure in communities across Australia.

In a speech at the Kimberley Women Rangers Forum, the Commissioner praised the Indigenous women rangers program, whose numbers have grown rapidly in recent years, as a great example of Indigenous women uniting and networking to bring about positive social change.

“Our women are standing strong in our knowledge on country. We are networking to unite our voices, knowing how powerful we can be when we act together,” said Commissioner Oscar.

The Commissioner praised the rangers for successfully taking the newest practices in Western science and combining them with Indigenous knowledge to create dynamic ways of caring and being on country – and to protect the unique human rights of Indigenous people in Australia.

“It is through these teachings on country that we maintain our culture and we re-make our civilization, from one generation to the next as the oldest on earth,” said Commissioner Oscar.

“Our rights exist in your hands when you burn country, clear and care for water sites, collect and make bush medicines, look after animal populations and make sure they are healthy – these are our rights in action.

“For us, caring for country means caring for society – they only exist together and are made from each other.”

The Commissioner also spoke about her work on the Wiyi Yani U Thangani project (which means Women’s Voices in Bunuba) to elevate Indigenous women’s voices and ensure they are heard by policy makers across Australia.

“Our women keep our social infrastructure functioning. Our women’s wisdom comes from country and we carry it forward in dynamic ways in our lives today.

“When our men and women are treated and responded to as equals, we all benefit and the health of our country and society is stronger. Still, in Australia today our women’s voices remain some of the most marginalised and our positions, roles and responsibilities are not always valued with equal worth. But things are changing.

“When I travelled the country with Wiyi Yani U Thangani I could hear a momentum for change rising up in our women’s voices. Our women across this nation said: that the system is failing us and this does not have to be, because if you put control back in our hands, we hold the solutions and we will make change happen.”

You can read the full text of the Commissioner’s speech here