"I had a hard life growing up as a Sistagirl but that was a journey that I had to take to be who I am now."
By
Bianca Soldani

7 Dec 2016 - 11:48 AM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2017 - 11:16 AM

80 kilometres off the coast of Darwin, on the remote Tiwi Islands, a close-knit community of around 40 Aboriginal transgender women have been quietly trying to raise the money they need to attend next year's Mardi Gras.

They've just reached their goal, and now some of the Sistagirls - or yimpininni as they are known in Tiwi - look set to represent their remote community in Sydney after their successful crowdfunding campaign.

The group have never collectively made the 3,000 kilometre-journey south to experience the celebrations and fanfare of the march, and set about trying to rectify that with a GoFundMe page created in September.

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Three months on, and they’ve just nudged over the line of their modest $6,500 target, which they intend to use to pay for airfares, accommodation and airport transfers for ten ladies.

They also hope to contribute additional funds towards a float for the parade and a fundraiser - due to be held in Sydney this week - could see them collect enough money to bring a few more Sistagirls over.

The event is actually being organised by the Students Support Aboriginal Communities university group who saw the crowdfunding page and are now looking to contribute a further $2,000 to the cause. They've enlisted the skills of a number of Indigenous and queer performers to do so, and hope to attract a crowd of around 300.

Among the line up are Aboriginal drag queen group The Dreamtime Divas, Indigenous rights activist and jazz blues musician Marlene Cummins, and Wiradjuri video artist VJ Icki Sweet, who will be creating projection installations.

Sisters and Brothers NT explains that while Sistagirls may be stigmatised by the perception that their identity is a western concept, there is plenty of evidence and oral history showing that Sistagirls were a part of Aboriginal communities well before the time of colonisation.

This doesn't necessarily mean Sistagirls and Brotherboys don't face discrimination. Crystal Love, a senior member of the Tiwi Islands community and a Sistagirl Aunty, told NITV, "I had a hard life growing up as a Sistagirl but that was a journey that I had to take to be who I am now."

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In 2008, Tiwi Sistagirls held a ceremony to honour the memories of trans people in the community who had taken their own lives and to fight discrimination.

Senior Sistagirl Sean Kerinainua, told Mashable: "We said, 'The more we don't stand together, the more family members you will lose who identify as Sistagirl, gay or lesbian.' Since that time, the main thing that is good is that there have been no suicides."