Because of her love – we are fierce

14 Jul 2018

Indigenous women weather the trauma of past and present violence, oppression and policy to fight for a better future. #BecauseOfHer

Illustration of Indigenous person with paint on face and artwork around their head


Don’t worry pet, I have broad shoulders, I can carry this.”

Words from my mother.

Have you ever looked around you and taken pause to consider the women around you?  Your mother, partner, wife, mother of your children, sister, aunties, cousins, nieces, daughters, friends and colleagues? Have you considered their story – personal and familial?

Have you noticed who is turning up to plan things for community – even for NAIDOC which is supposed to be in her honour? Have you noticed who is on the frontlines of rallies? Who is advocating daily? Who is smashing the system daily in academia and panels giving voice to our issues, our solutions and our unapologetic pursuit of rectification? Have you noticed who is lined up to visit our mob behind bars and who is advocating for their release and for systemic reform? Have you noticed who is advocating for healing for our men and in the absence of services- stepping up to do it community ways – no funding, just doing it?

Overwhelmingly by majority, it is our strong black women. Why? Love – the fierce kind.

Have you ever paused to consider how these staunch women continue? In the face of the injustice, in spite of all that has been endured already? Have you considered the personal toll of these women who are speaking out for our young ones when they too suffered abuse as a result of the system into which they were born? Have you considered the emotional toil of advocacy, writing, speaking about the gut wrenching reality of our lives?

Have you seen the stereotypes prescribed to black women? Considered them?

Turn up at a rally? Absolutely, we are loud. See how our kids are being treated and removed to be placed in detention or care where they suffer trauma upon trauma –you will surely see anger. Passionate, emotional, angry? You bet we are.

The thing is – all of the stereotypes we are brushed with are supposed to demean us and make us appear unreasonable particularly when compared to that of a white woman who is stereotyped as soft, gentle, vulnerable and deserving of protection.

This attempt over the course of the last 230+ years to diminish our personhood and reduce our power and resilience as being wild and loud is deliberate. But I think we should own it because we are these things and we are these things because we refuse to be controlled and oppressed.

Our ancestors, our grandmothers, our mothers, aunties and sisters. We. Us.

We have been subjected to trauma which runs through our veins. Our empathy compounding the trauma again and again, triggered with each story, headline and incident. We cannot afford the time to unpack our trauma a lot of the time because there is so much work to be done, although we know it lives in us. Beneath our strong necks and jutted out chins as we look defiantly to the people and power structures we fight daily to dismantle, live our wounds – our scars. You don’t see them – but look into the eyes of a sister and you know they are there.

We have seen our children removed, killed through violence or the system, through introduced disease or disenfranchised hopelessness. We cannot sit in the trauma though, as we have too many more children to fight for, to protect and to prevent entry into this circumstance. Look into the eyes of a mother, aunty, grandmother though and you will see it is there, beneath the unwavering voice that cries out for justice, it is there.

We have seen our men demonised, brutalised and give in to the hopelessness of this life. We have carried their trauma along with ours to lighten their load so that they can heal and be strong again – for their identity relies on the ability to be strong and inspire our young men to stay the course and live proper way for our community’s survival. We need them on country – keeping ceremony, telling our stories and protecting our land and mob. Look into the eyes of the woman carrying this load and you will see it is there, it is heavy and yet she still carries it as she makes another cuppa and listens and guides him through his healing.

We have been subjected to brutal violence over the last 230+ years. Sexual violence of a magnitude that cannot be equivocated in my paltry words. The rape, slavery and abhorrent reprisal at any uttering against this reality has caused irreparable pain which embeds as trauma. Despite this, we cannot adequately heal ourselves as there is a system we are working against which would try to continue this treatment of our young ones and those not yet born. This trauma lives within us and you will see it in the eyes of the sister afraid of the man who has made an unwelcome approach and reacts angrily to raise an alarm so other sisters join her and support her.

Our wounds and scars are there. You may not see them underneath the defiant posture, the angry calls against injustice, or the resilience as we continue to work daily to overcome, address, redress and prevent more trauma for our people.

The blood has been spilt, the violence visited upon us. The hurt caused and the trauma has been embedded. Still we fight. Still we defy – the system, the colonisers and the patriarchy.

When our history is considered, particularly in light of the ongoing injustices and racialised misogyny, the stereotypes of us being “angry black women” are not the insult in which they are intended– they are testament to our resilience, our survival and our strength in spite of trauma.

The stereotypes tell the story of how we get things done – we get angry, we speak out – loudly and we continue until there is change. The bitter use of stereotypes is because the powerful patriarchy has not broken us despite their best efforts and dislikes the fact that we do not need them. We will fight regardless of their agreement with or support of us.

The wounds and scars we carry – that still bleed – are there. Beneath our possum skin and broad shoulders, our laughter and boisterous voices, they are there and they remind us daily why we do what we do, why our sisterhood is so essential to our survival and why we will ensure that there are less and less of us carrying these wounds and this trauma as each generation passes because our love for our people and children is stronger than everything.

Because of her we are. Because of her we can. Because of her we do.

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