Australia’s First Nations women endure disadvantage according to almost every data point measured by government agencies and private research institutions (see snapshot of relevant data below). Such disadvantage limits their ability to build a solid social foundation from which they can make economic leaps equal to the rest of Australian society.
One example is education. Young First Nations women are less likely to gain tertiary qualifications in comparison to their male counterparts, despite having higher Year 12 attainment rates. They also experience less likelihood of employment in comparison to First Nations men even if they have the same qualifications.
While governments play an important role in bringing about change, there is still a place for every Australian to make a real difference to the lives of First Nations women.
Here are six ways you can help Cape York Girls.
1. Bring First Nations culture to the eyes of others
Demonstrations of solidarity take the wind out of the sails of bigotry and ignorance. Whether its a neat little hair clip, a spectacular piece of art, or a shirt that makes a bold statement, demonstrating your alliance with First Nations culture to the wider Australian community can have a profound effect.
We currently have limited edition art prints for sale by young women of Our Sisters. The proceeds from each print sold will go toward the Our Sisters cause as well as to the artist. You can find the prints for sale, as well as Our Sisters merchandise, here.
Check out some other great examples of bringing culture to the forefront from the 2021 NAIDOC event in Cairns.
2. Call out racism
Racist attitudes and behaviours aimed towards First Nations peoples still exist within Australian society. There is a plethora of anecdotal evidence that supports this.
Racism comes in many forms and may be difficult to define, but you surely know it when you see and hear it. Every time it rears its ugly head, it makes Australia’s First Nations peoples feel unsafe, unacknowledged and unappreciated. It also leads to misconceptions of First Nations people, their culture and their communities.
Our First Nations culture is ancient, wonderfully diverse and worthy of celebration — Australia is enriched for having it. This website outlines calendar dates that provide opportunity to celebrate First Nations culture and commemorate its history. Moreover, check out this map of Australia, compiled by AIATSIS, to see just how diverse our First Nations peoples are.
Whether its derogatory comments, ignorant jokes, or explicit and prejudicial behaviour in your community, be brave and call it out for the racism that it is. You may not change the attitude of the perpetrator, but you might signal to any and all bystanders that the behaviour is unacceptable and unwelcome.
3. Learn the truth by reading widely (especially the words of First Nations women)
Truth telling is an integral step toward reconciliation. In fact, it was the third proposal outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Whilst more can be taught in schools, universities and workplaces, the power to learn rests with us. Reading the words of First Nations women will enlighten you to their experience, perspectives and interpretation of history. Here are some books that we recommend:
- Not Just Black and White - Lesley and Tammy Williams
- Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, and Am I Black Enough for You? - Anita Heiss
- Welcome to Country - Marcia Langton
- My Tidda, My Sister - Marlee Silva
- Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence - Doris Pilkington-Gamimara
- Respect (children’s book) - Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson
- Everything You Need to Know About the Uluru Statement from the Heart - Megan Davis (with George Williams)
4. Subscribe to the Time to Listen podcast
Do you want to hear from First Nations peoples themselves?
The Time to Listen podcast gives a space and a platform to their voices. Check out these episodes that feature First Nations women:
- Special episode - International Women’s Day
- Episode 2 - Women Leadership and Gender Equality with Fiona Jose
- Episode 5 - The Cape York Girl Academy featuring Baressa Frazer
5. Support the From the Heart campaign
It is time for First Nations people to have a say in matters that affect them. The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a First Nations Voice to Parliament that is enshrined in our constitution. Should it be realised, solutions to the issues that affect First Nations people – especially those that affect women and youth – will be determined by First Nations people themselves.
Follow the From the Heart campaign and signal your support for a First Nations Voice here.
6. Donate to the Our Sisters cause
Cape York girls are motivated and capable, and they demonstrate their academic and professional prowess whenever they have the opportunity to do so.
Our Sisters works with Cape York Partnership schools and programs to break the cycles of intergenerational trauma and entrenched disadvantage endured by the young First Nations women of Cape York. Providing further opportunities for higher levels of education is a surefire way of ending these cycles.
Every dollar that you donate during our International Day of the Girl Child movement will go toward academic scholarships to Cape York girls. Visit our this page to donate today.
You can also visit our newsroom to stay up to date with the success stories of Our Sisters.
Snapshot of relevant data:
- Indigenous women in Queensland have a life expectancy that is 6.9 years less than non-Indigenous Queensland women. For the Indigenous people of Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands, this gap is 21 years when compared to the rest of Queensland.
- Indigenous women are disproportionately afflicted by chronic disease prevalence. In Cape York, a nutritious and healthy diet is either inaccessible or unaffordable. In some remote communities, a healthy diet can cost half the fortnightly income of a family on income support.
- There is a 40.7 percentile point employment gap between remote-dwelling Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The national employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women is 24.5 percentile points.
- There is a 20.4 percentile point gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders aged 15–24 years who were fully engaged in employment, education or training. The gap is 26.4 percentile points for tertiary qualification attainment, and 19.3 percentile points in attainment of year 12 or equivalent qualifications.
- The amount of traditional languages spoken in Australia has declined from 145 to 123 over 15 years. Of these 123, only 14 are considered “strong languages” — a decline of 4 over the same time period.
- Approximately one third of Indigenous households in Far North Queensland, including Cape York, do not have access to the internet — an approximate 17 percentile point gap in comparison to non-Indigenous households.
- In 2020, Indigenous peoples experienced suicide at a rate of 27.1 per 100,000 people. This rate has increased from 16.7 per 100,000 in 2009. The national rate in 2020 was 12.1 per 100,000 people.
- In 2020, Indigenous youth in Queensland are more than 29 times as likely than non-Indigenous to be incarcerated. Indigenous women also represent 9% of the total female prisoner population, despite representing 3.2% of the Australian female population.