Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to talk straight this International Women’s Day

Media Releases article written on the 08 Mar 2010

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women of all ages and backgrounds from across the country will be at Parliament House in Canberra this week for Oxfam’s Straight Talk Summit.

They will meet with female politicians including the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin, to find ways of working together to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce AC also will join the Straight Talk participants at University House on International Women’s Day (Monday 8 March) to hear the inspiring stories of Indigenous ‘trailblazers’ – Carol Martin – the Member for Kimberley and the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to an Australian Parliament, and Neita Scott, who has been involved with the Aboriginal land rights movement and issues concerning Aboriginal women for the past 30 years.

Oxfam’s Political Engagement Coordinator Sabina Curatolo said the Straight Talk participants, already active in their communities, brought with them concerns about a number of issues, from domestic violence and health, through to drugs and alcohol, lack of employment and education opportunities.

“Whether they have come from remote communities or urban areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are bringing the issues that need to be heard to Canberra. Politicians need to hear them, as they make the decisions that affect these women’s lives,” Ms Curatolo said.

Twenty-eight-year old Tammy Abala from Melville Island is helping teenage girls and young women make better choices in their lives by developing a game-based life skills course.  She sees problems in her community including alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and welfare dependency.

“I want to help young women to make better choices that will lead to a more fulfilling life,” she said.  “There is so much richness in our culture; people can live healthily and forge a good life if they have the right skills.”

Ms Curatolo said other women taking part ranged from a woman who wants to be the first Indigenous Prime Minister, another who is spearheading an anti-violence campaign in her community, and others who are helping people deal with chronic health issues or kick-starting mentoring programs to inspire Aboriginal youths.

“It’s often the women who keep their communities together, their families strong, so they hold the key to making things better.  By working with women in Parliament, change is possible,” Ms Curatolo said.

Participants are aged between 18 and 60 and represent all backgrounds, education levels and employment histories.

NB. Tomorrow (9 March):

9am – Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin will welcome the women in an opening ceremony at the Parliament House Theatre; 10.45am – The Straight Talk participants will take part in a Senate Committee Inquiry role play on the Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act at Parliament House.

For further information or interviews, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au