• June Oscar, centre in the Torres Strait Islands with women from the Hear Us, See Us project. (Wayne Quilliam)Source: Wayne Quilliam
The Social Justice Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has unveiled a unique exhibition of Indigenous women and girls in Geneva, Switzerland.
Douglas Smith

26 Jun 2019 - 5:18 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2019 - 9:43 AM

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar, has unveiled a powerful exhibition of Indigenous women and girls at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The exhibition called 'Hear Us, See Us', is a part of the 'Wiyi Yani U Thangani ' project, meaning 'Women's Voice' in the Bunuba language from Fitzroy Crossing.

The exhibition comes from a series of consultations the Commissioner had with Indigenous woman and girls from all over Australia to hear their stories and concerns in order to bring their voice to a national and international platform.  

Speaking at the launch on Tuesday, the Commissioner unveiled the exhibition with a powerful speech as she called on the Australian Government to give full effect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"It is we who have the solutions," said Ms June.

"We need a [Indigenous] Voice at the national and regional levels that represent us, on our terms, and cannot be abolished at the stroke of a pen, as was done in 2005, a measure which took us back decades in our struggle for self-determination.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders bear the burden of markedly disproportionate negative health and well-being statistics," she said.

We are not statistics, we are people

Hear Us, See Us includes the videos and photos of First Nations women and girls from every corner of Australia. 

Ms June said these are the women who are not seen and heard enough. 

"I and the women and girls I have heard from, those whose images surround you today, carry a lot of hope for the future.

"We are not stereotypes, we are not statistics, we are people - we are not invisible - we have a voice," she said. 

In the Torres Strait Islands, the Commissioner spoke to women who said the Australian Government wasn't doing enough to help them with rising sea levels. 

"The sea levels keep on rising, we can't keep on building the sea walls, the concrete sea walls, people will have to be relocated eventually, which means losing your connective-ness to your land," said Saibai Island resident, Mariana Baba. 

"What are we going to do?

The Commissioner said it was important to hear the stories and messages or these women so she could share them with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

"I call on the Australian government, a member of the Human Rights Council, to take a lead from what similar countries such as Canada and New Zealand are doing and progress work on a stand-alone National Action Plan to give full effect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," Ms June said.  

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