Vicky Welgraven has always spoken up for her rights. As a young girl she witnessed family and domestic violence in and around her community.
“I seen it in family, seen it community, sometimes you hear about it in the workplace. It makes me feel as an Aboriginal woman that I’ve gotta do something about it” Vicky told NITV News.
Next Monday, Vicky will represent the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA) at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York.
“I remember getting the phone call when I did, it was full of emotions. To go over to an area where it’s all about women issues, to talk about issues on a global level, it’s amazing,” Vicky said.
The conference brings together women from around the world to discuss women’s issues such as violence, equal rights and wage equality. This year one of the themes is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
It’s an issue that Vicky, a proud Adnyamathanha woman, has dedicated her life to tackling.
“It’s who I am as a person. I’m passionate about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women issues and making sure our voices are heard,” she said.
“My parents’ were strong-minded leaders they passed onto me to be a strong leader, and stand up for what you believe in. Now to take it to the highest level, words can’t describe it.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman facing high levels of violence
As the director of NATSIWA, Vicky works every day to combat the widespread issues facing Indigenous women, in particular family and domestic violence.
“[It’s] is our highest issue at the moment. Ending this violence needs to be implemented and more culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are needed,” she said.
According to Our Watch, a woman dies at the hands of a current or former partner almost every week in Australia. Last year alone, 78 women died as a result of violence, and for Indigenous women it is even worse.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to end up in hospital due to family violence than any other women and are five times more likely to experience physical violence. The cost of violence to the community is estimated to be around $2 billion.
Working for a different outcome
With her work with NATSIWA, Vicky knows there is a lot to be done.
“We want our voices heard, we want [the government] to take it on board and look at funding, in providing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children. We want domestic violence shelters to be set up, women out of prison to look at programs and services to get back into the community. These are fundamental human rights and key things that make us human,” she says.
Vicky, who is also on the board for Reconciliation Australia, will bring the issues affecting Indigenous Australian women to the world when she travels to the United Nations. Specifically, she will discuss gender inequality, post-colonisation impacts, health, housing, employment and family and domestic violence.
“I will look at similarities and how we can implement the same models. I will look at key recommendations how things worked well and implement them here. I’m only one voice but I’ll give it my best shot,” she says.
Vicky has been proactive in the community for a number years and her hard work is beginning to be recognised. Last year, she was inducted into the South Australian Women’s Honour Roll and awarded the Gladys Elphick award for Excellence to Women and in Sport.
She was also the keynote speaker at the National Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Health Violence Conference in Adelaide alongside domestic violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about the passion, dreams and goals. I’m not about accolades, I’m about making sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a voice,” she says.
Vicky looks to her greatest inspiration to continue the fight.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are achievers, we can achieve anything. I look up to them, they give me the passion, energy and drive to progress.”
The 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 14-24 March 2016.