• Participants of the Koorie Youth Summit 2018 (Facebook/Koorie Youth Summit)
OPINION: Our women have given us a platform, let's honour them by using it writes, Georgia Mae Capocchi-Hunter.
By
Georgia Mae Cappocchi-Hunter

9 May 2019 - 1:17 PM  UPDATED 9 May 2019 - 2:11 PM

Our Elders and leaders are the foundations of our culture. As such, we hold great respect and admiration towards them for everything they have done for our community.

We appreciate the sacrifices they made, the experiences they have lived and the wisdom they gained throughout their life in a colonised society, where the odds are stacked against Indigenous people.   

I can’t help but feel, however, that our female Elders and leaders are too often overlooked and in many cases, pushed into the role of 'so and so’s' wife or mother. They're characterised as though their only sacrifices were being unable to spend time with their husbands and that their only community contributions have been as caregivers of children; they stood alongside, while the men fought the good fight.

This just isn’t accurate.

When we look at our past, we have female leaders who most definitely supported our communities as strong matriarchs, but who were also activists in their own right.    

Aunty Margaret Tucker, for example, raised funds for food and blankets for the residents of the Cummeragunja walk off and later became a founding member of the Australian Aborigines League.

We have women like Aunty Gladys Nicholls, who took part in the Cummeragunja walk-off and while living in Melbourne, she along with other women frequently ran fundraising events to improve the living conditions of community members. She did this without the expectation of payment.

Related Reading
Notable women: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who should be on banknotes
In the spirit of 'Because of Her, We Can', we visualise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women honoured on national material.

A woman who I personally look up to, but did not know about until I conducted my own research, is Aunty Margaret Wirrpanda. Aunty Margaret fought for equal wages and land rights in the 1960s along with her mother and sister. In the 1970s, she was a founding member of VAHS and VALS. She was the first female president of the Aborigines Advancement League and served as secretary and president of the National Women’s Consultative Council. Aunty Margaret fought for land rights, she fought to empower women, to empower young people and to revive our culture.

These are all causes I am passionate about and I wish I had known about her growing up, but instead, I discovered her story and amazing achievements not long ago, when I was a 19-year-old woman.

These women were fierce warriors who fought to improve the lives of our community. They faced hardships not only for being Indigenous, but also for being women. Despite this dual oppression, they rose above it all to accomplish great things and it is our duty to remember them and teach their stories.

Just as the women before us paved the way for our generation to lead, it is now my generations turn to follow in their footsteps; to continue their fight in our own way and to pave the way for future generations.

Just as the women before us paved the way for our generation to lead, it is now my generations turn to follow in their footsteps; to continue their fight in our own way and to pave the way for future generations.

Today, I see many young women at the forefront of movements and we cannot allow them to also go underrecognised.

Women like Aretha Brown, a writer, artist and activist, who at only 17, was chosen by her peers as the first female Indigenous Youth Prime Minister of Australia, or Meriki Onus, who is always on the frontline organising protests and fundraisers for community, last year drawing an estimated 40,000-80,000 people to the Melbourne Invasion Day rally.

Related Reading
Not every Indigenous person wants to change the date: Aretha Brown
The media has recently been flooded with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people pushing for Australia Day to be moved away from January 26, but not all Indigenous people agree with this view.

These women and many others, are our present and our future Tuckers, Nicholls and Wirrpandas; this is why it is important for our future generations to grow up learning about them.

If we continue to underrecognise and underappreciate the efforts of our women then we will only be repeating history, raising girls who don’t understand their full potential to change the world.

It’s also important to acknowledge that women in our community never have just one role. We are many things, students, workers, CEOs, mothers, wives, carers — we play all the roles that are necessary for our community to thrive and often must make sacrifices that are overlooked or that we are judged for.

It is our job to create a future for the next generation just as our Elders did for us, but it is especially important to give a platform to our girls as they will have to fight the hardest just to be heard.

It’s why the Koorie Youth Summit is a great initiative. It gives opportunities for young people — especially young women — to network and be given a platform to have their thoughts and feelings heard no matter who you are or where you come from. It provides a platform for young women to speak their truth and be recognised for their achievements.

The Summit is the highlight of the year for many and for good reason. By focusing on past, present and future we will be able to reflect on the fights of our Elders, our own roles in fighting oppression as well as how we hope for our future to look.

We are young, black and female and the leaders of tomorrow and the summit provides an opportunity to be recognised as such.

 

Georgia Mae Capocchi-Hunter is a proud Wurundjeri, Ngurai illum wurrung and Italian young woman. She sits on the Koorie Youth Council as an executive member, a voluntary position guiding and advising the organisation. Georgia is a dancer for the Djirri Djirri dance group and a passionate writer. She writes about equality and the rights of all people, especially women and youth.

The Koorie Youth Summit runs 10 - 12 May. For information go here