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Women’s Rights: Where Are They?

By Jennifer Michel

Historically, men placed themselves above women on ‘matters of importance’ in many cultures, Australia among them. Much has changed in today’s society, that is true, but much still has not. We see many TV shows and movies regarding the past, often there are arranged marriages where the male characters are heavily concerned about how pretty their bride to be is. This sort of narrative aids the misogynistic values placed upon women in today’s society.

As a woman I may come across as a strong feminist on these matters but many of the beliefs shared within this section of society are not values I hold high on my list of priorities. My focus is human rights, not the platitudes pinned upon politicians’ chests in the form of coloured ribbons. Real equality for all lives. But as an Australian Aboriginal my focus in this area is still my fellow Indigenous women. Most women in Australia are nowhere near as invisible as ours. We have a handful of individuals in the public arena we can look up to. Times we do step into it we are faced with racially discriminative behaviours alongside the misogynistic ones other Aussie women face. Take for example the number of times a black woman has been correctly named in the media, but another individual’s image has been used within the story. This happens more often than Aussies want to admit which contributes to the systematic racism seen in all areas of the Lucky Country.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are greatly underrepresented within the political sphere of Australia. The NT has a fairly widespread inclusion of Indigenous People, but that would be because of the high population of our people. Lidia Thorpe was the first Indigenous woman voted into the Victorian Senate in June 2020. The first Aboriginal Person in the NSW parliament was Linda Burney, elected in 2003. Nova Peris and Jacqui Lambie were the first two Indigenous women to enter federal politics in 2014. But each of these women have faced not only the misogynistic abuse against women highlighted in the media, they have likewise dealt with the inevitable racism that goes with being a Blackfella in Oz.

Senior management positions held by Australian women are often not held by those of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, they seem to be reserved for those women who do not belong to the oldest living cultures in the world. Australian’s have held a gripe against our people since the introduction of incentives for hiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People came into play, I have seen Aboriginal women post on social media regarding new jobs only to face individuals imply they are just that company’s token Blackfella hired so they could tick the ethnic diverse box.

When our women attend medical appointments the cultural sensitivities such as dividing men’s and women’s business is overlooked, this causes an enormous amount of humiliation to these women, who Aussies suggest should just get over it. Statistics for domestic violence are drastically higher for our nations too, and while this is in part due to alcohol, the services available to Australian women are not accessible to ours. Contributing to the much larger statistics, in 2020 reports were released that showed our women are 30% more likely to experience extreme physical violence and we are 10% more likely to die from our injuries. These statistics are met with an enormous amount of hatred from the Australian public, all while the underlying issues are utterly overlooked. Trauma is the cause and is something our people have asked for assistance with for generations, these requests have fallen upon deaf ears. Trauma is also responsible for the alcohol intake which contributes to the huge statistics regarding our imprisonment rates, another factor of Australian society that disproportionately affect Aboriginal women too. Combining the systematic racism with the traumas resulting in the alcohol abuse all work together to compound the issues, but Aussies back further punitive measures for the results of colonisation.

Amazing Aboriginal advocates such as Nayuka Gorrie are criticised for her appearance in an attempt to undermine her important words, in the same way that Australian women are criticised for their appearance when individuals want to avoid the hard topics they are discussing. We have the same issues as other Aussie women, yet the fact that we are Aboriginal means we are also undermined by the systematic racism the Lucky Country is founded upon. The processes that tell Australians we are not worthy, or we are not welcomed into the spaces set aside for White Australia.

One of my favourite writers, Claire G. Coleman faces a parade of racially discriminatory abuse alongside that directed towards members of the LBGTQIA community. Daily she has demands to prove her Aboriginality and is harassed over her gender she held at birth. Those who troll her have often never read the words of her awe-inspiring books and use others misguided words in an attempt at diminishing her character.

I myself, am faced with similar issues when I write, I do not fit the stereotype Aussies have clung to regarding how I should look as an Aboriginal. Regardless of the fact that stereotype was outdated 233 years ago when the first European man raped an Aboriginal woman, but Aussies still cling to it. The women of White Australia are entitled to claim their forefathers who arrived on a ship 5 generations ago; yet I am told I cannot claim my ancestors from only 3 generations ago. All because I do not fit what they tell themselves a Blackfella should look like. As an advocate for my people, I have often faced both racial discrimination mixed among misogynistic behaviours. During a discussion regarding the gap in education between Indigenous and Colonial Australia someone named Scott on Facebook told me to stop playing the victim then that he was starting to crush on me. Racist followed with misogynistic behaviours.

This is the real Australia and how Aboriginal women are treated, much worse off than the many stories of women from White Australia, and we are just as angry as they are. We have finally found our voices and we are demanding the same acknowledgement too.

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  1. DrakeN

    Thank you for writing this.
    Even though I am an old white man, the sentiments resonate.
    I cannot see the world from your viewwpoint, but can wholeheartedly agree that far greater equitability across genders, races ( even though, biologically speaking no such thing exists ), and social status will be needed if the human race ( there is only one ) is to progress in any meaningful way.

  2. Arnd

    Oh, the sentiments resonate, alright. The question is, how do you make these things stick.

    Which is a problem that has exercised my mind for going on fifty years. I can recall my curiosity on such matters being tickled as a (obviously slightly nerdy) ten year old, growing up in W.-Germany, reflecting on the civic
    and jurisprudential implications of tales of high adventure set in the US frontier wars, as told by James Fenimore Cooper, Karl May (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/04/09/wild-west-germany/amp) and East-German academic Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liselotte_Welskopf-Henrich); and long before expatriate life in a colonial settler society like Australia ever became a consideration.

    There is a maze of interconnected technical and philosophical details to consider, which is mostly centred on the question whether it is actually possible to fully integrate an usurped people into social, economic and political structures which have developed in the context, and on the back of, usurpation, annexation and expropriation.

    I say that it isn’t.

  3. wam

    Hillsong and the other extreme xstian religions believe all women must defer to men(pollies like mitt Romney believe god give boys power over women on their 12th birthday)
    The church believes god made women at 75% equal but ensured they could not be equal with menstrual blood 1 week out of 4. To strengthen their claim they put the fear of menstrual blood into the system with ‘unclean’,(it is a wonder we men don’t give you a bell) a la pigs etc then top it off with if a man touches a menstruating women he is unclean for a week.
    Perhaps scummo remembers the ‘ditch the bitch’ anti-carbon rally (23/3/11) and is frightened of women not deferring to the top man or perhaps he fears calls to ‘cut the swinging dicks large and small’.
    He could be informed that the lying rodent wore a bullet proof jacket to meet the gun lobby so he could wear a steel jockstrap to meet the rally?

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