I find International Women’s Day problematic, always have. Like many awareness days of this nature, the crux of the day is lost in the corporate agenda which is usually having their brand associated with something that allows a company to check an equity box. Action has been replaced with cupcakes and speeches on parity or corporate success and this is a devastating derailment of the intent of an awareness day.
While women receiving equal pay and achieving career success are both important issues, they are issues that are centered at the expense of issues affecting Blak and brown women.
To those of us not within the mainstream feminist movement – the issues that need addressing are urgent and have little to do with pay parity or corporate success. The issues we see and experience are often times, life and death – particularly where there is interaction with the criminal justice system.
We have women who continue to be imprisoned for fines. We know that such a practice is terrifying for Indigenous women and our broader communities because we can point to the devastating death of Ms Dhu who sought the assistance of police for domestic violence but found herself locked up for a fine – denied her dignity and humanity – to ultimately die while in custody.
We know that Indigenous women are disproportionately impacted by allegations of neglect in circumstances where poverty is reinforced by government policy and practice. Indigenous women have suffered the most violent impacts of colonisation and still carry the trauma of others along with their own. Indigenous women are the life blood of communities and continue to lead families and communities into the future despite all that is stacked against them. We have women in regional and remote communities that are forced onto income management payments that are quarantined onto cashless cards to be spent in stores that charge upwards of $50 for a single serve of meat (a viral image shows a tray of frozen chops at a cost in excess of $80) and the vegetable prices are equally disgraceful (when they are available). These women are then accused of neglect by authorities but are not granted the support that families in metropolitan regions are provided for food support and other services (which are doing the best they can with limited funding but the disparity needs to be pointed to).
We have Indigenous women disproportionately sentenced to custody in some truly outrageous circumstances, like the woman sentenced to three months prison for a soft drink.
So while we agree with the sentiments of parity and those arguments – we simply do not have the luxury of looking away from the issues that plague us. The issues that pervade in the colony because we continue to exist in a racist system designed to destroy us.
The issues affecting Indigenous women have more to do with the fact that they are blak in a racist country than the fact that they are women. We continue to experience death and devastation, perpetually mourning because of the impact of a racist society upon us.
We have seen two deaths in one family 20 years apart as was the case in WA with Cherdeena Wynne, the devastating death of Ms Dhu and heard of the incomprehensible death of Aunty Tanya Day during her inquest.
The fact is – we continue to lose people because they are Indigenous and we continue to see the impact of systemic racism. These losses come as a direct consequence of violence visited upon our people or a reckless indifference to human life in failing to render medical assistance. Despite all of the evidence, all of the inquests and the weight of our communities fighting for justice – it is a drop in the bucket of mainstream Australia’s apathy and vehement denial of racism.
Indigenous women have weathered and continue to weather the brutality of life in the colony and it is essential that we continue to elevate voices that educate and create awareness of issues and how our allies can support the agitation for change.
Over the course of the next week in the lead up to International Women’s Day – we will be showcasing Indigenous voices of experience who have been tremendously generous in sharing their stories and their visions for change. We trust you will engage with respect and help us to fight this week and every week for change that deals with the intergenerational and institutional racism that continues to pervade in this country.
We ask that you also continue to support the work of Sisters Inside in freeing Indigenous women from custody and supporting them in ensuring that they cease being punished for poverty.
Your support will ensure IndigenousX is able to stay independent and keep making original content.