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BROOME LAUNCH Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women's Voices) Report

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

BROOME LAUNCH Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices )—Securing Our Rights, Securing Our Future 2020 Report

Monday, 14 December 2020

Goolarri Media Enterprises, Broome

I acknowledge the beautiful lands of the Yawuru people that we gather on—I pay my respects to your ancestors, and your elders of today and those emerging. I also acknowledge all the language groups and many nations of the Kimberley.

It is so good to be here and to launch this very special report—on home ground—surrounded by so many of my friends and family. There is nowhere else I’d rather be!

Wiyi Yani U Thangani—meaning Women’s Voices in Bunuba—Securing Our Rights, Securing Our Future 2020, is no ordinary report. It carries the voices, stories, dreams and determination of First Nations women and girls from hundreds of different ancestral countries from right across Australia.


So today, I recognise our ancestral mothers who have birthed and raised an ancient lineage of powerful matriarchs. I want us all to think of our girls who carry that heritage, and our ongoing legacy of female leadership and our senior women who have a depth of knowledge like no other, and how their words and actions of love, nurture and reassurance, show us that nothing is impossible. They remind us not to give up and that for millennia we have succeeded and thrived, and that is not going to stop.

As one woman had emblazoned on her shirt in an engagement in Geraldton, and I quote,

‘A woman armed with ancestral wisdom and culture is an unstoppable force.’

I look around and I see those women in this room today.

I want to thank the women who have already spoken who represent all of this—thank you Dianne Appleby for your generous welcome, to Jub for your masterful conducting of this event, to Jodie and your team at Goolarri for putting this together, and to Nini, Emily and Deb for your fierce resilience, commitment and moving words.        

It is women like yourselves from the everywhere—the Torres Strait, through the red centre and all the way to Tasmania that have created this report.  

And I want to thank the men who stand with, and beside us, on this journey. There are many here. In particular today, I thank the Hon Ken Wyatt, our Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, who has joined us virtually.

It is important that we are launching this report in collaboration, as leaders who have a responsibility to advocate and develop the types of policy and legislation that will realise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights. It is also crucial that as we launch this report we can represent men and women in equal partnership, both embracing of our different views and our common values in the pursuit for a stronger and more just existence.

After 34 years, since the Women’s Business Report in 1986, the Government of the day has invested in this report and put firmly back on the table and on the public agenda, the lives and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls. That is a commitment worth celebrating. With the report complete and, in our hands, we cannot and will not let that commitment end here.

I believe it is this report armed with the voices of our women and girls that has to be an unstoppable force.

In 2018 our women and girls sang out from across Australia. In 2020, we don’t just want to be heard, we want to be responded to.  

The report tracks the landscapes of our lives. It is shaped by the frank and fearless conversations of our women and girls, and like them it does not hold back. 

Women and girls have spoken of holistic realities, and Wiyi Yani U Thangani threads together the interrelated parts of our lives, from healing and recovery to the practice of our Women’s Law, ceremony and culture; the mitigation of climate change; educational journeys and establishing First Nations-designed businesses.

Against this dynamic backdrop, the report charts how Western structures constantly intervene eroding our strengths and wisdom in all these spaces, relegating us to the margins and trapping us in poverty and powerlessness where we are increasingly vulnerable to harms of addictions and violence. These issues manifest from broken systems, from the despair of dispossession and unresolved trauma.

They cannot be resolved by the dominate Western systems that have caused and perpetuate them.

Wiyi Yani U Thangani sets it out clearly: we resolve issues of disconnection by reconnecting, by seeing the world in its fullness again and not divided into fragmented parts.

Women and girls said it plainly, we cannot address family violence without addressing overcrowding and housing unaffordability, and to do that we must consider jobs, employment and income security. And none of these things are possible, without stimulating economic growth and ensuring the emergence of new industries and forms of exchange and production.

But ultimately the always overlooked and fundamental truth that must be invested in to overcome the gaping inequalities that deepen all crisis’: is that our women are the backbone of society and have been for millennia.

Our women and girls’ are central to healing and to rectifying all injustices—environmental, social, political and economic.

That is why the seven overarching recommendations put forward in Wiyi Yani U Thangani are all about achieving structural reform through the empowerment of our women and girls. We are calling for a First Nations women and girls’ National Action Plan so all governments act on the issues raised throughout the report, the establishment of an advisory body and the setting of ambitious targets and benchmarks for our women and girls to lead across all sectors and to be in the driving seat of guiding and implementing policy and systems reform.  

This year we have seen what happens when governments put trust in our hands. We stopped COVID-19 in its tracks. One of the most urgent threats to face global humanity in a generation has not taken hold in any of our communities. It was our leadership that did this. But our triumph too often exists on that hard edge, of being won in the face of adversity.

That has to end.

This year we have also seen the social movements like Black Lives Matter that have a burning urgency for profound change, to reshape structures from the ground up around our values of respect, inclusiveness, collaboration and trust.

Throughout my travels for Wiyi Yani U Thangani, and across all the pages of the report, this same momentum is rising up in our women and girls’ voices.

I know we are on the cusp of change, and a new era that we all want and deserve is waiting just around the corner.  But that change will not happen without our women and girls, not just as participants, but in leading the charge. I want to make clear, this is not a report for the shelves. We can use it as a vehicle to bring us all together and walk with courage into a future where we can guarantee our self-determination. Not as a policy era but as an inherent and lasting right.

So my message to First Nation women and girls everywhere and carried throughout the report, is: aim high, be ambitious and know that your actions don’t just matter, they are pivotal, in making the world of tomorrow, the world we want, absolutely deserve and have a right to. 




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Ms June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice