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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to ‘design’ their future with new national approach to First Nations gender justice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Content type: Media Release
Topic(s): Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice / Indigenous Social Justice

Bold new approaches from First Nations Australian women for improving their future have been unveiled at a historic summit in Canberra, including a new National Framework for Action and a new dedicated First Nations Gender Justice Institute at the Australian National University. 

The new measures have been highlighted at the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) National Summit, Australia’s most significant gathering ever of First Nations women which has been taking place this week at the National Convention Centre Canberra on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. Wiyi Yani U Thangani (wee YAH-knee you TUNG-gah-knee) means ‘women’s voices’ in the Bunuba language from Western Australia’s Kimberley region. 

Concluding today, the Summit – delivered by the Australian Human Rights Commission – was attended by over 800 First Nations women from across Australia with the aim to ensure Australia responds to the rights, health, safety, wellbeing and prosperity of First Nations women and girls. 

Delegates have issued a Summit Communique and Youth Statement outlining their perspectives, calls to action and recommendations for Australian governments and other stakeholders to work with them to realise their vision for First Nations gender justice and equity.  

The recommendations include: 

  • Our voices, experiences and solutions to be centred in decision-making about our futures  

  • The recognition that our cultures are foundational to societal and ecological health and wellbeing  

  • The development of models for financial reinvestment through a First Nations gender lens   

  • Placing care at the heart of policy design  

  • Genuine and authentic collaborations to address and overcome systemic challenges   

  • Policies for First Nations women to embrace our voices equally in all their diversity, including sistergirls and transwomen, non-binary people, children and people with disability.    

The Communique also calls on governments across the country to commit to the development and implementation of a new National Framework for Action that will provide a ‘blakprint’ for delivering lasting change across relevant policies and programs of government, industry and service providers. 

Alongside the Framework, the new ANU First Nations Gender Justice Institute will contribute vital research, ideas, analysis and leadership to help continually shape the form, content and direction of advocacy for First Nations women and girls. 

Development of the Framework has already commenced and is being led by the Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO. The goal is to have the Framework endorsed and being implemented by community, government and other stakeholders within 12 months. The Institute is expected to launch around the same time. 

Commissioner Oscar: “These two new initiatives – the Framework and the Institute – will play a vital role in ensuring the interests and aspirations of First Nations women and girls are put front and centre as we move forward towards a better future in this country for First Nations people and communities. 

“I’m tremendously excited about the impact these new approaches will have in terms of delivering the change we need to ensure First Nations women, our families and our communities can flourish and thrive.   

“The power and the passion of Indigenous women – our optimism and our determination – have been on full display here at the Summit over the last four days and this has shown what we have always known – that First Nations women have the knowledge, the wisdom and the spirit to design our future and drive social and economic change in our communities. 

“We are the change and I thank all the Summit participants for their contributions and for sharing their energy and ideas. As we move towards making the Framework and the Institute a reality, I look forward to the strength of our sisterhood supporting each other and making this happen as we work towards building a better future for our Countries and our communities.”  

The Summit has been the culmination of the five-year Wiyi Yani U Thangani systemic change project led by Commissioner Oscar. Leading First Nations women’s rights advocate Michelle Deshong co-hosted the Summit.