Through the storytelling and languages of 10 diverse Indigenous women, NITV marks International Women's Day from an Indigenous perspective.
Some of the country's leading writers and authors address the female experience and the political, economic and social contributions of women, including First Nations' women. This year's theme is #BeBoldForChange. Bold, honest and powerful – this here is Woman’s Way.
Words by: Kamarra Bell-Wykes, Kat Clarke, Estelle Clarke Vicki Couzens, Nayuka Gorrie, Jeanine Leane, Lorna Munro, Emily Nicol, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Elizabeth Wymarra
Artwork by: Nikita Ridgeway
Animation by: Bridget Ackerman
Produced by: Sophie Verass
Click on the circles below to jump to each section.
Ceremony, dance, song
language, totem, dilly bag
Long time gone
To get them back
I must find the key
Secret truth I must find again
this is my journey
Creation magic of Woman Spirit
this is my Law
Daughters hold to carry on
seven generations... and more
to keep the memory fire burning bright
Kooyoorn, karweeyn, leerpeen
wurrung, muuruup koorrayarr
nhaka wanyoo ngathook
Alam meen pang ngooteen weeng
Yooloowateeyt nhakan wanyoo
teen poorpeeyt ngathoo-ngat
Yakeeneeyt yoompateeyt weerreeyaar
Ngart-an mana walata
marrang-ba-pooleeyt ngarrakeetoong... ba wananang
nganto pay pang ngooteen weeng peeneeyt weeyn
Tidda, yorga, cudgeree
we belong to all same One
Woman Spirit – Weerreeyaar
by Vicki Couzens
Ngaarr Ngay Buluuy Yinarr
My Black Womanhood
My black womanhood was never celebrated
Nor was it ever stated
That I was allowed to say it
Acknowledged or encouraged
To ever really pay it
I was shamed
Told to stay in line
Shut up and try and find
Another way to articulate
The situations I faced
With no empathy
We got no time
For your memory
You'll be fine
My black womanhood was never celebrated
Often castrated and hated
Compromised and made unsafe
In situations I related to
I fell straight into
That idea of waiting
To speak my turn
Waiting for a white man to burn
At every turn
I refuse to learn
The rejoicing of all Australians
In that musical form
In our own lands
All for a policy that stole children
From the time they were born.
Will we stand
My black womanhood was never celebrated or elevated from the position as a servant
My rights were never protected
Everything I got Iearned it
My body was never further from the truth
From the colonial ideals
That took me back to my youth
Taunts about my race, my people, the way I spoke and thought
The look on my face
And was not observant
Of my pain
Chose to remain
On stolen land
Then told us to stay away.
Put us in chains
Ordered to get down on knees and hands
Worked the flesh from our elders
With no equal pay
These city streets
The rightful treatment
We so deserved
My black womanhood was never celebrated
So I celebrate it
Every step being adance
Every second of everyday
I Practice self love
Any which way I can
Cos it’s hard to drop the ball and lend
Can’t afford fake friends
When everyone's waiting for your end.
I can’t pretend that what surrounds
Isn't built on lies
I can’t pretend that everything is fine
I've run out of lines to bend
So I tend to my garden of spiritual growth
In the hope that I can love
Clip those weeds we see crawling through TVs
and look in glory andthank the creator above
That I am a black woman
by Lorna Munro
Dilai Ngaju Warbanlidj, Broondoo Gano Ngalko
Today I Want Children, Tomorrow I Might Not
I’ve been thinking about children lately. I’ve been really clucky. I’m in a relationship where having children won’t just happen and if I decide to get pregnant it’ll mean being really considered and intentional, which I am more than fine with.
I turn 27 this year. Out of all my cousins I think I’m the oldest woman on all sides of my family without a child or one on the way. I think my Mum first asked me for a child when I was about 20. Even then I felt a bit over the hill.
The black mother has been demonised and judged since invasion. We have children younger. White people see this as a negative thing. They think it’s a sign of our loose morals and even looser holes. They judge our young Mums. They assume we are a burden on the state, that we are incompetent. They don’t see our love, our efforts, our beauty. They think it’s ok to steal our babies. They see dysfunction.
Then there’s what happens when we decide to not have children. Our own mob can look at women who don’t have children as weird. It feels like femininity or blackness is bound infertility which is a bit frustrating and also dismissive of trans people in our communities. I’m not sure if it’s internalised or not but it can also feel like you are a child or treated like one until you have some of your own.
Sometimes I get really worried about the world I would be bringing a black baby in to. I imagine the racism and hatred they will face by bullies and cops, and structures that oppress them. I think about the inheritance already denied to them. I think about whether or not my trauma and neuroses will inadvertently pass on to them? Despite this, I also think about the love they would be surrounded by. I think about how happy and healthy black children in the face of colonisation is resistance. Today I want children, tomorrow I might not. Sorry I still don’t have the answers for you Mum!
by Nayuka Gorrie
Dabaamalang Ngumbaay,Garay Ngumbaay, Mayiny-galang Ngumbaay
One Mob, One Land, One People
She is Mother Earth. She is the land of Oz
She is country, she is family. She is you
She nurtures and loves, she’s there when your tears fall
She laughs with you when you’re happy and the stars shine bright
She is your spirit of place, your mother, your land
She walks with you and your shadow guiding the way
Her love for you is the glue that holds you together
Your connection to country is your spirit of place.
Seek her on that road you travel a mother’s love has no boundaries
Unselfish in her giving her devotion is never ending
She is you and you are her no matter what road you travel
Hold your head high for you are who you are. Proud strong
Our communities are made up different from a long time ago
It’s important to remember we are one people, one Nation
Share the journey, share the joy. Be proud in the culture
Be upright and true, your identity strong never ending.
Hate and jealously. Not ours, never ours. A White man thing!
Join together be strong, stand proud. United we stand, divided we fall.
I am you and you are me. Our spirit of place, always deep within
Your life destined from time beginning, sharing the country, honouring the Lore
Now our roles defined to how we want them to be but culture is strong
Sharing and caring our identity as a people, share what you have is the Lore of the land
Each role we fulfil is for the good of the Mob learn what you will and pass on to the next
Don’t forget where you come from and the essence of life.
Be true to who you are, don’t forget who you are. Your belonging is the heart of you Aboriginal warrior man or woman be true to Mother Earth care for each other
After all we are one land one people one culture
by Kerry Reed-Gilbert
She arises with a start and knows it’s she can’t remember how at first but something is definitely different.
Why can’t she remember?
She knows it’s different….well she’s sure it’s meant to be.
She doesn’t feel different but somehow she knows she should.
She wishes she was still sleeping, so grateful for the twilight hours that she isn’t acutely aware of. Minutes, seconds,moments that don’t tick past in her stomach like they will never end as she desperately fills her endless days. Convinced in her dreams that her life is a full one, a place where she is constantly in demand, the many people she knows and some she doesn’t, constantly striving for her attention.
Why doesn’t she feel different?
She realises for the first time without any real surprise that a baby is crying.
She wonders if it has always been and she just hadn’t noticed but how could that be?
The crying is so loud, so consistent , her head actually feels as though it has no other option than to cave in on itself; leaving only a decapitated woman with fists so tightly clenched, clenched so tight that her nails leave six-layer-deep imprints in her palms.
I try my hardest to talk to you, tell you how I feel, express the yearn I face each die,lie in bed with each night. you’re not the only one that cries.
I know you understand me because you mock me with your eyes. I see you absorbing my features, your tiny face grafittied with your thoughts.
Don’t you think this is hard enough without your cute little taunts?
I wake with guilt that clings to me all day and when I think of you there is no smile, just this crying shame.
Baby, I’m sorry. Mummy doesn’t know why she feels this way.
Why do I hurt you with thoughtless words? You know I don’t mean the things I say.
by Kamarra Bell-Wykes
A still, blue, crystal-clear lake – full skirted, straight-backed ballerinas poised in arabesque, eyes downcast – waiting. That’s you under the limelight –striking black swan with white-feathered tiara, circling the stage – arms flailing, toes pointed– an image of impossibility made flesh. Before a besotted crowd you die to the melancholy tune of Saint-Saen’s Le Cygne.
Aprima ballerina almost Bolshoi – just one tip of a sculptured toe away from St.Petersburg – your solo performance hailed an enthusiastic encore – The Swan Queen Extraordinaire!
But too soon I sailed into your lake – muddied the waters with too many ripples, too many waves. There was a swollen belly, chunky ankles and big blousy dresses – no rings on those puffy fingers.
Your next theatre wasn’t what you had planned – lights too hard – shining on the wrong spot, attention not on you – pose inelegant – legs in stirrups –skull-cap replacing tiara. Forceps fail – a 1960s cesarean – mound of scar tissue for a trophy. The crowd cheered for my accidental entry onto your stage.
You couldn’t see any swan in that ugly duckling – egghead, pigeon toes and thick lips. Nothing would glide forth and become beautiful.
The lake became stagnant. You never stepped out of the act – off that stage of your life when you almost swanned your way into an impossible dream.
I lose myself in this picture of you. And leave with nothing else.
I come back a middle-aged daughter in the year that replicates that of my birth. See an ageing, humpbacked woman –shoulders curled and stooped in a house of soggy, sagging costume boxes,tainted tutus, tattered tulle, rusting tiaras – fodder for mice and silverfish– a feast of memories forgotten – shuffling and fretting too late for me.
I’ll exit that stage – sail out of your life – leave you till the last curtain falls– alone in a murky lake. The swan will be a long time dying yet.
by Jeanine Leane
In a world of filters and fads, it feels like an act of rebellion to try and stay true to yourself. The almost unconscious instinct to take a ‘selfie’ has crept up so insidiously, within this age of Kardashian culture worship. Where do we go to reclaim our realness? Our individual truths?
There may be nowhere else that demands quite as much of us as the potent space of intimate, romantic love… Our vulnerability, our truth, our desires. If we give our whole selves to it’s process, we may find our realness there.
For despite love’s beauty and gifts, it requires that you know the depths of true intimacy, and this can be terrifying. With searing truths and sometimes frosty edges, I’ve come to find that I may be understood. Held. Loved. Or not. And within the cauldron of our desires and sexuality, there is nowhere to hide. It’s there in that intimacy where I’ve touched my boundaries and burned my falsehoods. In the heat, the passion, the presence…with our bodies, our breathing, our eyes. We ask, search and discover; Can I trust you? Do you feel me? Do I know you? Without words, I enter in to the realm of my senses and I feel at home again. I reclaim myself from the world. From it’s demands of perfection and falsities. I find that I’m not perfect and that is okay.
When I allow myself to stand naked before another – to enter into the dance of seeing and being seen, I come to know myself. I feel that I touch something of the mystery. This intimacy I seek and crave, feels like nothing less than the desire to know life itself, in it’s full, exquisite nature.
I may not always like what I find, but I will return again and again. To be understood. To be seen. To dance. Through union with another I am reunited with myself.
by Em Nicols
She Is Woman
see's the stares that are all made up of fear.
An activity that cages a woman who has never been imprisoned by her image.
has known her body innocently through birth.
Unashamedly through childhood.
Until she steps into the courtroom of her teenage years.
is charged with a crime
accused of being imperfect.
As a woman, allegedly not societies image of beauty.
continues to walk though.
Through the doors of inhumane justice.
With the knowledge that she; gets none.
knows justice doesn’t serve her this way.
Even when freedom is etched all over her majestic pigmented skin.
And even though her spirit reeks of the aroma of peace.
knows justice will not serve her here.
knows her regal glances still seem imperfect in the glares of the revenging world.
remains still, in her soul.
The soul that holds secrets to the universe.
Cultural mysteries that the earth is yet to fathom.
She knows her worth.
knows she has borne humanity and that without her there will be no more.
stands proud yet humble.
In front of the world’s jury who snicker.
Letting the glamour of her identity be seen.
declares her innocence.
And gives herself permission not to be swayed by the guilty outcome.
She stands naked in her strength.
& Vulnerable in her Love for herself.
Waiting for the outcome of this unfair trial.
As the guilty verdict is read out
for everyone to hear.
She already knew...
by Elizabeth Wymarra
Nya Drrobeya Ngun Abubup Mimini
If I Ever Have A Baby Girl
If I ever have a baby girl…
I would draw her a songline so that even when she loses the keys to her world, she will be able to trek back and know exactly how to find me.
I will paint the whole damn universe on an ever-ending canvas. Before she goes it alone and even thinks she knows it all.
And when she falls, I will ensure she can get back up and allow the rain to wash the pain away, cleansing her for brighter days.
I will weave her a bottomless basket to collect as much knowledge and culture she can hold. Just so she knows not everything is black and white no matter what she is sold.
I will tell her; ‘Follow your heart but baby girl education is a key. So take your brain with you’. Because there will be chapters and pages of her that will be read by many and few.
And she’ll find some may read the front andback, and others will fold pages to savour parts. But only one will read herover and over again.
Even when some of those pages tear, and aretorn from her life, I will give her the pen and paper to rewrite them again, no matter the strife.
Because there is hurt in this life and although I can’t stop her from feeling it I can carve a shield to defend her spirit from losing passion for it.
And I will make sure she realises she doesn’t have to shield her heart on her own. I will tell her; ‘Bub, life can feel like a kick in the guts, knock you down hard and take you for a whirl. But only to help ground you enough to realise it’s not the end of the world.’
And yes, sometimes chocolate won’t fix everything and she’ll have dark days. But each time she experiences them she will know how to turn them into sunshine and rays.
I will tell her, ‘Bub. Remember, your Mother is a nurturer and your Father a warrior. And you were born with both of those blended within you. So nurture and grow, be gentle but strong,show love but know your worth, and be a warrior who leads with a heart that’s true.’
by Kat Clarke
This Is Yours, This Is Who You Are
“You’ve got the spirit of a Yorga, A woman. This is yours. This is who you are…Your spirit is what matters, not the vessel… Follow your spirit”
Several years ago, an uncle back on Noongar Country helped me understand and come to terms with my womanhood. It wasn’t like he made the above statement and I followed confusedly. He could see me struggling, struggling to conform to previously assumed roles and responsibilities and knew that I wasn’t being my authentic self, but also assured that my culture would follow my Yorga spirit as it has for generations.
It’s no secret that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures faced extreme erasure and removal, this heavily included anything that didn’t fit into the binary of cis man or cis woman. We were told to conform and forget, resulting in negative perceptions onto our existence which we are fighting hard now to correct and enhance our beautiful space in culture. Young mob who span the gender spectrum are facing backlash from our cultural figures of support and guidance, unjustly backed by forced religious ideologies and the intended erasure of our knowledge and traditions by those who colonized us.
I held hesitation towards putting myself or anything I was to write in potential crossfire from mob denying my ability to own my queerness and culture collectively because both haven’t seen eye to eye for majority of my lifetime. I knew mob who were queerphobic and queer mates who were racist and those of us stuck in the middle slightly lost but more so concerned at the lack of empathy and solidarity.
For the benefit of queer black lives aboriginal and queer communities need to work together to reduce stigma and decolonize our understandings of gender and sexualities because black queer people, particularly black Trans women are more vulnerable and are at great risk of experiencing violence and victimization.
This International Women’s Day I hope to see my elders, aunties and uncles hold a proudness towards the ownership of my gender and to other queer mob. I hope to see my white queer friends uplift my friends of colour to be able to explore and experience life at the same level.
Queerness exists in culture and a world more focused on inclusion and diversity is richer and more fulfilling to exist within.
by Estelle Clarke