Top women unite at Parliament House to ‘talk straight’

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 19 Feb 2009

Women from all sides of politics will sit down with 88 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander women from around the country to talk about the issues facing indigenous communities in an historic national summit held by international aid agency Oxfam Australia at Parliament House on Friday 27 February.
The summit will be held in the same week that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is due to hand down the first report card into progress on closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop will both speak at the summit, together with Olympic Gold Medallist and health advocate Nova Peris OAM, and actress Georgie Parker. Performing will be singer Ruby Hunter – the first Aboriginal woman to record an album – Indigenous actress Ursula Yovich, who starred in Australia, and former ARIA winner Clare Bowditch.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce will host a reception for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women at Government House on Thursday.
Straight Talk will give participants – from Geraldton in WA to Bateman’s Bay in NSW, from the Torres Strait’s Banu Island to Launceston – an opportunity to meet with female Federal parliamentarians to find ways to work together to improve the lives of indigenous people.
Fifty-seven-year-old Christine Egan of Adelaide, a member of the Stolen Generations, has spent most of her career in social justice and women’s issues.
She is a cast member of Sista Act – Women of Country, a group that developed an act about the 1967 referendum which was performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival two years ago and now is used as an educational tool.
“I am a strong advocate of policy being developed from the grass roots up, not from policy makers down; it’s so important for community members to have a voice on those government programs which will ultimately have an impact on their community and family,” she said.
NSW participants include bush tucker chef Sheree Drylie from Taree, who says “we need educated, strong, caring indigenous women to step up and lead the next generation forward.”
Meanwhile, 29-year-old Kalinda Griffiths of Darwin, a research assistant at the Menzies School of Health, began her career in Indigenous health because of the constant issues affecting her family – stroke, heart disease and suicide – and wants to learn how better to communicate with policy makers.
Oxfam Australia summit coordinator Jo Pride said participants ranged in age from 18 to 77 and all brought with them different stories of hope, hardship and resilience from across the country and the generations.
“Some of these women have completed multiple university degrees; some of them never had the opportunity to continue past primary school. Most of them are mothers; some of them were taken away from their mothers as part of the Stolen Generations,” Ms Pride said.
“All of them are hard-working, determined and committed to finding solutions for their communities and all of them are excited about meeting and working with women in Parliament.”
Oxfam Australia has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for 30 years in the areas of health, youth and self-determination.
Ms Pride said through Oxfam Australia’s work in 26 countries, the organisation had seen time and time again women’s ability to work with each other across traditional, cultural and political boundaries.
“We’ve seen many examples of women coming together to bring about change – from women parliamentarians in Malawi to warring tribes in the highlands of Papua New Guinea,” Ms Pride said.
10% of participants are Torres Strait Islanders. 19% come from remote locations, 32% from major cities, 26% from inner regional locations and 23% from outer regional locations. There are 3 participants from the ACT, 27 from NSW, 5 from NT, 18 from Qld, 10 from SA, 3 from TAS, 11 from VIC and 11 from WA.

For interviews with participants or Jo Pride, please contact Laurelle Keough at Oxfam Australia on 0409 960 100 or