NATIONAL NAIDOC ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER WOMEN’S CONFERENCE
On 11-12 July 2018, the first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s conference in over 30 years was held at UNSW. Building on the 2018 NAIDOC theme “Because of Her, We Can”, the conference brought together around 800 women from across Australia. It celebrated the wide ranging achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in their communities, both now and in the past, and highlighted the significant roles that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played at the community, state and national levels. The inspiring speakers shared their experiences fighting for justice, equal rights, rights to country, access to education, employment and maintaining and celebrating culture, language, music and art. Some speakers were well known for their significant achievements at a national level in politics, business and community leadership, yet many of the very moving stories were personal ones from women from local communities, informed by experiences of trauma, abuse, grief, poverty, isolation and inspired by spirit, healing, resilience and family.
Two JNC team members attended, along with some aunts from La Perouse connected with The JNC, who had been invited by the conference organisers to attend. Both days started with moving and inspiring dances by the Warada Dancers, the wonderful local children and staff from Matraville Soldiers Settlement School. This set the scene for the speakers who shared their wide ranging experiences, achievements and challenges. Each shared stories about the women who had been significant for them – their mums, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends and daughters, explaining, “because of her, I could”
One of the interesting messages, particularly for a non-Aboriginal woman like myself, was the strong acknowledgement that the many younger women speaking and in attendance made of the fact that they could not have achieved the things they have without the achievements and trailblazing of the older women – the women who had gone before, the elders.
There were many tears, lots of laughter and standing ovations for the amazing achievements of so many of the women. It was a conference that challenged one’s thinking and lingers on to fuel periods of reflection.