The Sydney University Wom*n’s Collective acknowledges that our activism and meetings take place on Aboriginal land. Those of us who are non-Indigenous recognise our complicity in the continuing colonisation of Aboriginal land. As feminists, we know that our fight for equality is meaningless if the experiences and contributions of Aboriginal women are not centred and recognised. We understand that the structures that oppress women, trans and non-binary people, are inextricably linked to those that have oppressed Aboriginal people.
We regret that the history of feminism has consistently failed to recognise the place of Aboriginal women. We note that in Australia, when the suffragettes claimed to have won the vote for all Australian women in 1902, this did not include Indigenous women. It was not until 1962 that Aboriginal women were given the right to vote with Aboriginal men. We as a collective do not recognise 1902 as the date of women’s suffrage in Australia, but 1962. This pattern repeats itself through history. Little space in history has been given to Aboriginal women who have lost their families to the Stolen Generations and who have constantly fought colonisation whilst having their culture forcibly stripped from them. We look to policies like the Northern Territory Intervention that illustrate how governments have paternalistically claimed to be “protecting” Aboriginal women whilst furthering their neo-colonial agenda.
Beyond history, we look to the current state of feminism. When the pay gap is quoted and provokes anger, it is rarely qualified by the effect of race. We know that the pay gap does not represent the structural disadvantages Aboriginal women face—we cannot even find the statistic that does. When Rosie Batty recently spoke out about domestic violence, feminists commended her. When Aboriginal women like Amy McGuire want to do the same thing, they must fear that their concerns will be used as a weapon against their community. These are not isolated areas in feminism; we can see this pattern repeated in every “feminist” issue.
Stereotypes about aboriginal communities are still pervasive and ridiculous, particularly those that suggest Aboriginal culture is inherently sexist. The Aboriginal feminists we know are strong, powerful activists. We look to our own community at Sydney University and to the amazing Aboriginal women we know. In the SRC we specifically recognise Madison McIvor (USYD Vice President) and Laura Webster (SRC Executive). Thank you for being wonderful friends, activists, feminists and educators. We are humbled by your greatness and cannot wait to see all the wonderful ways in which you will both make the world a better place.