Survival to me is about resilience and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have fought over the years for our land, for our children, for our culture and for our rights. Survival to me is about finding that will and that courage to push on and keep pushing forward, even though it’s one step forward and one hundred steps back every week and for some people every day.
Survival is about having the rest of society starting from the position of ‘you’re wrong and we’re right, our things are good and yours are bad' and 'it’s not our fault, it’s your fault’ and then we have to slowly and gently chip away at them until eventually, if you’re lucky one day someone in power goes ‘hey maybe we should do something about this’.
A personal history of survival
Survival is important to me because I am part of a proud family from WA and we have a long history of courageous women who have survived through some of the worst parts of colonisation.
My great-great-grandmother and her mother were sexually assaulted in the early 1900s and they were brave enough to go to court and fight for justice. I’ve looked at court records of it and for them to take that step and put themselves out there at that time; I am kind of in awe of their courage.
Then my great-grandmother was stolen from my family in 1918. She was taken to several settlements and missions where they tried to civilize her, teach her not to be Aboriginal and make her feel shame about her people, her family and her culture.
Then they made her work on a farm up North... when she got pregnant she was so scared that her baby would also be taken away just like she was. She wrote to the Chief Protector and asked him not to take her baby and in her letter she says ‘I don’t think it’s fair to take a baby from its mother’.
Again for me it’s just her courage and the bravery to be able to take that strong position when you’re so vulnerable.
I come from these really amazing, courageous strong women who are real survivors and I am just so inspired by their quest for justice and that that really lives on in me.
The work of Amnesty International
So I’ve worked as an Indigenous rights campaigner for Amnesty International and I guess the most direct way that I fight for the survival of Indigenous culture is by warning and advocating for remote Indigenous communities in WA who are under threat from closure. Amnesty have helped to set up what we are calling the Homelands Coalition which is a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous NGOs (non-governmental organisations) who are concerned about the fate of these remote Indigenous communities in WA.
But more broadly the work that I do, it grows the survival culture by fighting for the rights of our people.
Without our people there is no culture and without respecting our rights we can’t survive.
I work on issues like the overrepresentation of our young people in the justice system, deaths in custody or our mob, discrimination, racism and a lot of other things.
I’ve survived by being proud in my identity and remembering where I’ve come from. Constantly having to justify your identity is tough but I think being Aboriginal is so much more than the colour of your skin.