Wiyi Yani U Thangani – Women’s Voices

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO has spent the start of her term leading a project that highlights the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls.

The project, called ‘Wiyi Yani U Thangani’ (Women’s Voices) is the first government led initiative to report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s lives since The Women’s Business Report was tabled in Parliament 32 years ago.

As the first woman in the role as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Oscar said she felt it was important to meet and speak with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls.

“I felt as an Aboriginal woman and, in this role, I could use it to speak to women about their rights, their human rights and gather information” she said.

Commissioner Oscar said it has been too long since women’s views had been composed in this way.

“It has been such a long time for such an engagement but that’s not to say that women haven’t been contributing to the big issues. Women said that they have been having these conversations for a long time and that is why it is important to gather these opinions in a way that can be turned into action” she said.

The Commissioner said the project was designed for women to speak freely about their lives.

“During 2018, we had the privilege of meeting with 2,294 women and girls in 50 locations across the country, to hear about their strengths, challenges”.

The engagement was an opportunity focused entirely on them. We did not engage with women with any pre-arranged or set agenda. We simply let them talk about their lives, their lived experiences and what they would like to see change,” said Commissioner Oscar.

The Commissioner said she was grateful to hear from women and girls of all ages and backgrounds.

“We had young women and girls who are still at high school. Those who are attending tertiary level education and those who are in professional jobs, whether they’re lawyers or teachers or managers.

“We also spoke with mothers, with young mums and we were able to speak with the grandmothers and great grandmothers. We had the opportunity of hearing the issues that are unique to a variety of women and girls. To hear their strength and positivity and what their roles are and how they are committed to making a better future, it was truly humbling” said the Commissioner.

Commisioner Oscar said the Wiyi Yani U Thangani project report will be presented to Parliament later this year. The Commissioner said she would like to see action being taken on the issues raised in the report.

“My team and I are currently drafting the report and once completed it will be presented to Parliament. We will then be focused on the need for action based on the report’s recommendations” she said.

In early March, The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion announced $1.7 million to support the second stage of the project, as part of the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

“Stage Two will focus on how First Nations women and girls will use our final Report and its recommendations,
as a tool for continuing their incredible work within their communities.

“We want to build on the existing strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls, so that they can work with their communities to lead and negotiate community-led solutions in partnership with government and non-government partners” said Commissioner Oscar.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner has been invited to provide an additional proposal to the Federal government for funding to hold a National Summit in 2020.

The National Summit would bring together representatives from the Commonwealth, States and Territories and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies to work with First Nations women and girls.

Commissioner Oscar said the National Summit would be instrumental in bringing together all participants
that have a role in activating the Report’s recommendations and set in motion the development of implementation plans.

Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices), comes from the Bunuba language from around Fitzroy Crossing, the language of Commissioner Oscar’s mother and grandmother.

For more information visit humanrights.gov.au

By Kaliah Alice

SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.