As migrants to Australia, we eat, live, work and play on what always was and always will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land. We acknowledge that we live on stolen land, and that Australia was a multicultural society long before migrants arrived. Many participants in our PACE program are amazed to learn that 60,000 years prior to colonisation, the country was full of diverse languages, cultures, customs and political relationships. They’re baffled that this isn’t what we’re typically taught about Australian history.
For decades, Aboriginal women have been pointing to the systems and attitudes that continue to create disproportionately higher experiences of incarceration and deaths in custody, hospitalisation, family violence and workplace discrimination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Racism in its many forms does not only create poor health outcomes – it impacts our mental health too. But like Karla McGrady said at the GEN VIC forum last year, Aboriginal women don’t need saving. They “need a commitment to shifting how power works.”
This is exactly what we aim to achieve by doing feminist intersectional work. And that work is only possible thanks to the activism of Aboriginal and Black women such as Celeste Liddle, who demands space and respect for Aboriginal voices, Kimberlé Crenshaw, who recently wrote about racism as a pre-existing condition during times of pandemic, Maxine Beneba Clarke, whose feminism leaves no woman behind, and Audre Lorde, who foretold 40 years ago that “Change means growth and growth can be painful.”
We hope the amplified and increasing pain that’s surfaced in recent weeks indicates society is finally changing, and that one day we’ll no longer have to #sayhername. To make sure that change happens, we know it’s up to us to do better in our professional and personal lives.
So let’s listen to, watch and promote more Indigenous, refugee, trans and African migrant women’s voices. Let’s reclaim experiences from the margins to the centre. Let’s support women artists of colour, pay the rent, close or ‘clothe’ the health gap, address systemic barriers to wellness, connect with diverse Aboriginal and migrant-women led organisations, and all around strengthen those anti-racism muscles!