AILC team members were proud to participate in the empowering three-day leadership roundtable, 4-6 May, hosted by a group of leading Kimberley Aboriginal women.

‘it is time to amplify our voices … we are the matriarchs of our families and communities and we need to be determining what our future looks like’

The women presented the WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon Stephen Dawson four key focus areas, on which they want to see action:

  1. The development of a relationship based on equity in all that we both do.
  2. Support for the formation and sustainable position of a Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council.
  3. A strategic and single point of contact within the WA Government for Kimberley Aboriginal women to broker regional structural, systemic, policy and program reform.
  4. A Bilateral commitment between the WA and Commonwealth Government to work directly with Kimberley Aboriginal women to support the priorities of their regional action plan.

Over 85 Kimberley Aboriginal women came together with women from NPY lands and New South Wales to commit to co-design of a First Nations women-led action plan and a Council.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO opened the roundtable and panel discussions included leaders such as Emily Carter, CEO of Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre; Vicki O’Donnell, CEO of KAMS;  Elsta Foy local councillor and advocate; and NIAA advisor Mary O’Reeri.

The program also included presentations from the NPY Women’s Council and Waminda from the South Coast of NSW. Divina D’Anna, MLA Member for the Kimberley and Rosie Sahana Member for Mining and Pastoral WA also attended with the Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for the WA Government.

Senator Sue Lines, Senator Jenny McAllister and Senator Rachel Siewert also witnessed the conversation and Minister Ken Wyatt delivered a closing statement via video call. 

The women recognised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar’s landmark report, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices).  Kimberley Aboriginal women are determining their own regional priorities and actions based on the information gathered in this landmark report.

Commissioner Oscar AO said, ‘policy designed without us is by no means benign, it is dangerous … it is the work on the ground that is the most important to changing how systems function … now is our time for setting our aspirations and our demands for achieving them.’

Janine Dureau with June Oscar AO

Janine Dureau, the endorsed interim CEO of the Women’s Council and convenor of the roundtable said, the last time we gathered was three years ago, we have built momentum for reform and we are glad the WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner want to work with us to create systemic change in the Kimberley.

Kimberley Birds Founder Natasha Short said, ‘we need structural, systemic and policy reform to leverage our position as mothers, aunts, grandmothers and leaders … as a society and community, we must support the community as a whole and take a strengths-based approach and be in business.’

Janine and the working group committee for the Council will be undertaking regional engagement to progress the action plan over the coming months, and present findings to the WA and Commonwealth Governments before the end of 2021.

It was a privilege to witness Indigenous leadership in action in the Kimberley!