Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women will today hold the first national day of their own, as a reaction to the lack of representation on last week’s International Women’s Day.

The day, which was organised by Mudgin-Gal and Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre, in just a week, will “celebrate the achievements, recognise the struggles and take action to empower Indigenous women across Australia”.   

There wasn’t a seat at the table for us, so now we are making our own table.

It comes after much frustration at the lack of representation within the media generally, and more specifically during International Women’s Day when Aboriginal representatives were conspicuously absent from major events.

“There wasn’t a seat at the table for us, so now we are making our own table,” Mudgin-Gal chief executive and Dunghutti woman, Ashlee Donohue, told Central News.  

“We are going to do it to empower us and amplify our voices.”   

She said it was important the date, March 15, fell in Women’s History Month. It also coincides with today’s March 4 Justice rallies around the country protesting the misogynistic culture in parliament. 

Ms Donohue added: “You cannot tell the history of this country without talking about Aboriginal women.

 We are still here and still standing.” 

Mudgin-Gal CEO and Dunghutti woman, Ashlee Donohue

Mudgin-Gal CEO and Dunghutti woman, Ashlee Donohue. (Photo: Elise Matouk)

Issues such as the over-representation of Indigenous women in prison and a lack of informed support from authorities, will be on the agenda.

The most recent reported figures show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women comprise 32 per cent of the total female prison population. This means despite making up about 3.2 per cent of the general Australian female population, they account for over a third of female prisoners.

Dr Thalia Anthony, a professor of law at UTS, told Central News: “First Nations women in prison have increased faster than any other group. This has contributed to dislocation from family and community.

“At a time when we need stronger supports and self-determination for First Nations women, the state continues to respond with carceralism and child protection interventions.”

Mudgin-Gal, which means “women’s place”, is a safe community space in Redfern run by Aboriginal women for Aboriginal women within Sydney’s inner-city suburbs. Its Facebook page criticised “International Women’s Day where we have seen time and time again our voices silenced”.

Although International Women’s Day is billed as a day for empowering all women, it has been criticised for its lack of diverse views.   

This was recently highlighted by the ABC’s decision to cancel the participation of Dr Chelsea Watego earlier this month on Q&A’s All About Women panel and similarly dropping the segment on racism in sport on The Drum, where she was meant to speak. 

To say we are equal, and that racism doesn’t exist in this country is just a blatant lie.

This disregard for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives was also evident in the absence of Aboriginal voices during Melbourne’s International Women’s Day march last week.  This was called out on Twitter by radio host and co-founder of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, Meriki Onus.  

“To say we are equal, and that racism doesn’t exist in this country is just a blatant lie,” said Ms Donohue.

Exclusive story and pictures by Elise Matouk @e_matouk

Main image: Dancers from Brolga Dance Academy performing at Mudgin-Gal in Redfern.