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Aboriginal women lead fight against violence

  • 19 February 2019


On 6 February, four brave Aboriginal women shared their experiences of being victims of sexual assault and harassment on the ABC's 7:30 Report. These shocking stories and the strength of these women was made even more plain by the fact that the alleged perpetrator of this violence against all four women is the current head of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), Wayne Muir. Muir (pictured) has denied all accusations but, nonetheless, was stood down by the board of directors of VALS in the wake of this report.

It is, however, a sad state of affairs when a group of women are forced to go public like this in order to be heard because they have been systemically failed over an extraordinary 30 year period, by their workplaces, by their communities, and by the legal system. On watching the report I couldn't help but feel that the exact same processes which had elevated this alleged perpetrator had silenced these women, and this was a shameful state of affairs.

When the report broke, I saw many Aboriginal women take to social media to share it and register their own shock and outrage. Indeed, many of them challenged others in the Indigenous community, particularly men, to stand up and be counted. It's so important they did this, for how can we ever win the fight against racism and colonisation in this country when Aboriginal women's rights to safety and autonomy are not respected? When our rights must always come secondary to those meant to march alongside us in the struggle?

It struck me that this report had come out mere days after Kerri-Anne Kennerley had demonised Indigenous rights protesters by claiming that none of the protesters had done anything about the rapes and abuse of women and children in the Northern Territory. It was an erroneous and racist comment for many reasons, not least because many of the Aboriginal women who organise these protests every year are survivors themselves or work tirelessly within the family and domestic violence fields.

The suffering of Aboriginal women should never be used as a cheap shot to denigrate the activism we engage in. Yet it continually is; if not from white media commentators who are not even remotely engaged in our movements then from Indigenous conservatives looking to position themselves as authorities within mainstream arenas such as politics.

It stuns me, for example, that Jacinta Price can on one hand draw