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Australia: Aboriginal & African Women Leaders Meet to Share Culture & Social Issues
Aboriginal and African leaders have come together for a historic meeting at Murdoch University. The meeting, which occurred yesterday morning, was the first time the two cultures had met on an official level.
The First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Dr Patience Goodluck Jonathon, graced the Murdoch University campus flanked by some of the key women in her entourage in a meeting with local indigenous women, including respected Aboriginal elder Irene Stainton, to discuss issues of social justice and social equity.
The meeting, fostered by the African Women’s Council of Australia and the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre, was hosted to encourage the women to talk, or “yarn”, together and share ideas and experiences to learn from one another to create positive changes within their respective communities.
Dr Casta Tungaraza, the president of the African Women’s Council of Australia, said she was thrilled about the meeting of cultures and believed it was the first time they had met in such a capacity.
Professor Rhonda Marriott, director of the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre, which encourages and fosters both indigenous tertiary education and the preservation of indigenous culture, said pressing indigenous issues were addressed.
“In Australia, our greatest challenges arise from the impact of poor education opportunities and poor health outcomes on the capacity of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people to drive the agenda of change,” Professor Marriott said.
According to Professor Marriott, “great strength” would be achieved by the meeting of women, who have “important and highly influential roles”, in order to positively build the direction and capacity Aboriginal community
She said she hoped the discussions would endure beyond yesterday’s meeting.
“While we come from African and Australian Aboriginal nations and the Wadjella community, we share troubling concerns about issues of education, health, justice, community capacity, politics and economics,” she said.
“There are differences in how those issues play out in our respective countries but we have much in common and can learn from one another for the challenges we face on a daily basis.”
Professor Bev Thiele, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) of Murdoch University, who was there to officially greet the First Lady along with the university’s Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Higgott, said they were “honoured” to host the event.
“Given the prominence of human rights on the agenda of the CHOGM meeting, we were pleased to create an opportunity for African and Indigenous women to talk with each other about Australia’s most pressing social justice and equity issue,” Professor Thiele said.
Addressing her “dear Australian women”, The First Lady Dame Dr Patience Goodluck Jonathon said it gave her much pleasure and joy to meet with them and commended the Aboriginal women in their efforts to preserve Aboriginal culture while acknowledging the challenges they faced.
She said she “strongly believed” gender equality and the empowerment of women was equally important throughout the world.
The prevailing topics of the “yarning” that ensued focused on major issues and adversities shared between the two cultures such as health, education and leadership, with the First Lady emphasising the importance of indigenous women striving for leadership roles.
Australian indigenous women attending the meeting, who initially expressed despair at the lack of Aboriginal women in leadership and government roles, said the meeting had empowered them and shown that it was achievable.
Both cultures agreed on the importance of education as an agent of change.
The wife of the Nigerian High Commissioner to Australia, Mrs Helen Olukanni, also attended the meeting.