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Shellie Morris is a strong Yunyuwa woman and a multi-award-winning singer/songwriter. Shellie sings in around 17 Aboriginal languages, preserving and promoting First Nations culture. She has performed in Black Arm Band and was part of the internationally award-winning musical documentary Prison Songs.
The suffragettes were just ordinary women who came from the upper and middle classes. They wanted change. Sounds very familiar to us today in 2018 – Indigenous Women of Australia, yes we want change. And we demand it and we deserve it!
When we talk about a collective making a difference, our Indigenous women across Australia have survived thousands of years together, rallying around each other, supporting, guiding and healing each other. This is our culture to its core; where we as women talk, laugh and help each other stay strong. We are Inter-National Women’s Day every day.
I have recently returned from a visit with my grandmother’s people. We are Yanyuwa women of Borroloola in the Northern Territory of Australia. During the three weeks I spent in Borroloola, working with my Elders to help retain language, record songs and pass on knowledge intergenerationally, I learnt a lot when I was a kid, I am and always will be learning. But I also learnt that I had things to teach my Elders as well. Over that time, we as Indigenous women spent all this time together, supporting each other, laughing and sharing. My Aunties, Grandmothers and Sisters spent time helping me to understand Yanyuwa language and culture, and me helping them with visits to the local medical clinic, driving them out to country and to the different community organisations to help them maybe get better housing to see change where needed.
There is still so much to fight for in regard to health and housing, and a better future for our children. We are a powerful force when we as Indigenous women are together. My grandmother’s people are the holders and keepers of songs and stories about the land, and the sea, we are Li-Athawirriyarra (salt-water people). My most senior paternal Grandfather’s sister was the a-kamba (sun). We sing about a-kamba revealing herself, the country singing to her to rise and the awakening of a new day. Our connection to this country is so deep and intertwined with our identity, family ties and how we see the world.
This knowledge and power has existed for over sixty thousand years or more for us Indigenous women of this country, this is our equality, this is our Dreaming, this is our language.
Throughout my travels to so many remote areas and communities across the Top End of Australia I have talked with and sat down with and learnt from so many amazing, strong and talented Indigenous women, who are strong and resilient; and very powerful. Many of these amazing Indigenous women have built the communities and schools with their hearts and cultural knowledge, they have supported families through understanding the western ways of life and education. And then they go home to nurse the elderly and raise the children.
We have each other, women who understand all our women’s issues, who take the time to sit by the light of the fire and strengthen ourselves with our songs, our dance and our stories. Indigenous Women who are dedicated to the needs of the next generations.
We as Indigenous women have issues that we would like to talk about, and we want to be heard, where our voices are loud and strong across this great Southern Land. We #pressforprogress in our own way. It will take some time for this kind of equality, and maybe it’s like a slow-moving turtle on the land, it will take time, but we will reach our destination.
Indigenous women are the spearhead to education, family knowledge and cultural wisdom. Often these heroes, our Indigenous women, are rarely known throughout Australia.
Ordinary women making an extraordinary difference, this is the reason those women fought so long and hard, so we today have the right to demand equality.
To have a voice that is filled with self-determination, and strength and without fear. We are a force when we are together just like the suffragettes when they stood alongside each other with one voice, wanting and demanding change and eventually change did come, not only for the women that marched and protested back in 1800s but for all women and now around the world.
If we are to talk about women’s equality, and rights we need to ensure that this day International Womens Day isn’t just about a fancy luncheon, that many Indigenous women can never afford or travel the long distances to. Indigenous women of Australia should have the access to information and feel supported. Rallies and community events where all women are included, to have a chance to speak and be heard.
When it is put in perspective of International Women’s Day and our ancestors: we have danced across the county and sang the songs that help our country grow, in the proper way.
So International Women’s Day for me is where we all have the opportunity to make change, to demand change where we can, and we will. Where your voice and my voice as women are heard loud and strong.
International Women’s Day is a reminder to all women to stand together, to band together, to rise up and to stand strong in our beliefs with our sisters from around the world.
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