A landmark report into First Nations women and girls has found Indigenous women and girls’ wellbeing and rights are continuously being marginalised and undermined.

Launched last week by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO, Wiyi Yani U Thangani, meaning ‘women’s voices’ in Bunuba language, made five findings and seven recommendations aimed at informing policy and legislation.

The recommendations include an urgent focus on healing from intergenerational trauma and the establishment of a National Action Plan advancing the wellbeing of First Nations women and girls in all areas of life.

Other recommendations call for a national summit to establish a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women and Girls Advisory Body, as well as national action to eradicate racism and include women in decision-making.

“I’m urging all governments to create the space to be informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women … to enable them to have access to the vices where these decisions are being made, and create a space at the table for them,” said Oscar.

“And if we continue the practice of exclusion, then we are never going to be able to penetrate the issues that require the input of women … who are actually encountering these issues.”

The report was driven by the lived experiences of over 2,300 Indigenous women and girls across more than 50 different communities who Oscar met with over two years.

“It was important that we took a very strong human rights-based approach to the engagement,” Oscar said.

“That meant that we did not come into the spaces with women with any set agenda … we wanted to leave it completely open to them to sit and have the discussion around the issues important to them.”

Whether issues of health, education, employment or culture were being discussed, Oscar said the same challenges, barriers, and solutions were raised.

The report found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 15 times more likely to seek assistance from crisis homelessness services than other Australian women.

It cited domestic and family violence as the leading cause of homelessness for First Nations women.

The report also outlined that there must be a resurgence of cultural values and knowledge across the board as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge “holds immense value and worth to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples”.

Oscar is now urging government to read the issues outlined in the report by these women.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the report is essential reading — not only for members of government but for all institutions.

“There are particular issues that apply to First Nations women that don’t apply to other people,” Burney told NIT.

“And certainly, when you look at all of the statistics around domestic violence, and homelessness, and employment and education, and so forth, you just see the disparity.

“And then you have the lack of gender parity across the board, and it just intensifies things for First Nations women.

“I think a national action plan … would be a really important thing to do.

“But there are also institutions that Aboriginal people interact with, like hospitals, schools and so forth that also need to take very much notice of what this report saying.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt welcomed the report on behalf of the Morrison Government.

“It provides all Governments a better understanding of the issues that impact the lives of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls, and will be used to inform the
Government’s future policy direction to bring about improved outcomes for personal,
socioeconomic and cultural wellbeing,” Minister Wyatt said.

Wiyi Yani U Thangani made the following recommendations:

  • A National Action Plan on advancing the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls
  • Conduct a National Summit and establish a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women and Girls Advisory Body
  • Empowering women’s leadership on the ground
  • Protecting, supporting, and reviving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practices and knowledge systems
  • An urgent focus on healing from intergenerational trauma
  • National action to eradicate racism
  • Local and regional focused engagement.

Find the full report here.

By Grace Crivellaro