Aboriginal Women’s Gathering (Question Time)
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:09): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the topic of the Aboriginal Women’s Gathering.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: In previous years, the previous Labor government funded and organised, then through the Office for Women, an annual Aboriginal Women’s Gathering. This was an opportunity for Aboriginal women to come together to discuss culturally significant issues, including health and wellbeing, practising traditional law and custom, and violence against women. That previous Labor government committed to supporting both metro and regional Aboriginal women’s gatherings, giving them the opportunity to build connections, learn skills and listen to speakers, and discuss topics relevant to them in an environment that was culturally supportive.
Members of the community were recognised and their achievements acknowledged through awards associated with the events, from artists such as Tjunkaya Tapaya and her renowned batik works to local community leaders such as Ngarrindjeri elder Eunice Aston, who spoke for those who fought against the Hindmarsh Bridge and dedicated years to promoting and supporting Ngarrindjeri women as a representative for her community.
The gatherings were also held regionally, and this was important. Issues that Aboriginal women face differ, and having gatherings in remote locations and regional locations allowed for the focus of those events to mirror those of the community in which the gathering was held. These gatherings also gave women, particularly in remote areas, the ability to link with other women from remote communities. The isolation felt by some made these particular opportunities for connection quite vital.
The gatherings not only were about recognition of achievement and learning skills, they were an opportunity to discuss complex issues faced by women in Aboriginal communities. It was a chance to share stories, a chance to feel heard, and a chance to help others—a chance that is no longer run by our state.
My question to the minister is: will the Malinauskas government commit to fund Aboriginal Women’s Gathering meetings again?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:12): I thank the honourable member for her question and her interest and advocacy in this area. I have memories of, in the former government—it was then the Hon. Gail Gago as the Minister for the Status of Women through her department—organising Aboriginal Women’s Gatherings. I think for a couple of years they were in Adelaide, but then it was decided that many of the women who couldn’t make it down to Adelaide would like it in regional areas, and at least in Murray Bridge and Port Augusta, I think, regional gatherings were held.
I think the honourable member has already mentioned people like Aunty Eunice Aston, who was also the very first ever female chair of the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority, and I remember leaders like Jeanette Miller, June Lennon and Jacinta McKenzie being involved in those gatherings when they occurred.
The member makes a very good point. The needs and aspirations of Aboriginal women are different around South Australia, and hearing voices of regional women I think was an important part of that. I will have a discussion with my colleague Minister Katrine Hildyard, who now holds those portfolio areas, to see if there is a possibility of similar things occurring—and particularly with our ambitions for a First Nations Voice to Parliament, where we have very deliberately recognised, after extensive consultations, that Aboriginal women’s voices need to be heard.
The draft model that has gone out for the second round of consultation proposes an equal number of women elected to each of the local First Nations Voices, as well as an equal number of women as presiding members of those local First Nations Voices and an equal number of women on the state’s First Nations Voice. There may be opportunities with the process of the Voice to look at how Aboriginal women’s gatherings can be a part of that greater process.
One of the things the consultation has thrown up is the need and the possibility of groups that might be committees to local First Nations Voices—groups of young people or elders—and this might be an opportunity through that process to see how something like that is re-established. But I certainly will take this issue up and have discussions with my colleague the minister for the status of women on this topic.