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We are the Change – Yanalangami at the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Summit

Our team was humbled to be invited to share our Yanalangami story and methods of First Nations women’s leadership at the inaugural First Nations Gender Justice Summit, held on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country by the Australian Human Rights Commission in May 2023. 

With more than 900 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and women gathering in the capital there was an electric energy of connection, culture and women-led change.  Led by the formidable Aunty June Oscar AO, who is the first Aboriginal woman to hold the position of Social Justice Commissioner in Australia, the 4 day summit connected First Nations girls and women from across Australia with the inspiring reminder that We Are the Change!  

Over the four days, we heard from incredible female leaders like Michelle Deshong on the importance of collective action, the Honourable Linda Burney on the historic opportunity for change embedded within the Voice to Parliament, and the enigmatic Dr Jackie Huggins on the immense value of culture and community embedded within the tiddaism movement for equity and social justice. If not before the summit, certainly by the end of the powerful week, 900 tiddaists were inspired and energised to keep making positive change happen for our communities.  

Our Project Officer Rhianna shared her reflections on the experience;

The past week has been life changing, powerful and inspiring to learn from our Black Matriarchs and amazing business women! Their voices spoke and educated our souls creating a strong connection to our land, family and work environment. The sisterhood is thriving creating black love which we love to see and joyfully feel. Strong women paving the way for our future and we cannot wait to see all the positive change enhance.”   

As a growing community of Indigenous female Changemakers nationally, it was no surprise that many of the deadly Yanalangami graduates and current Changemakers were joining in the Summit. It was a special moment for our team to present the Yanalangami story to a crowd of new tiddas and a supportive cheer squad of the Yanalangami graduates who know first-hand the life-changing opportunity of our unique cultural leadership program.  

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the week, however, was the final keynote presentation by the fabulous and fearless Estelle Clarke; a proud Yorta-Yorta Trans Sistergirl who resides on Gadigal land. We are proud to learn from and walk with Estelle as one of our deadly Aboriginal Advisory Council members for 2023. Estelle spoke honestly about the harm and violence being perpetrated on Trans communities throughout Australia. Her words held the room with love and brave truth telling, inviting us all -within ourselves, our families, our communities, and most importantly, within our organisations – to stand strong and stand-up against transphobia and homophobia.  

 “Trans knowledge and experience is a blessing and a benefit to our organisations; approach this with intentionality and openness. 
 Stand strong and stand-up with us through violence and discrimination. When trans people are under attack this inherently means that people within our communities are under attack. For me, organisations standing up and standing strong should just be doing the work. This is the bare minimum that we should expect for our organisations.  
A rainbow flag on a website or an LGBTQ+SB (Sistergirl & Brotherboy) dot point is not enough to ensure your policies, people and programs honour us. Australia has been ripping into our community for far too long with our BLAK orgs staying silent. This can’t keep continuing as we already hold so much grief for the ones that we lost and feel were forgotten.  
The compounding fear that we hold to navigate white and blak spaces, trans and cisgender spaces, queer and straight spaces; transphobia, racism, sexism, trans misogyny is unfair and is a result of colonial violence and oppression – on our communities, on our families. Our organisations should be a break from that.” 

As part of the closing, Estelle reminded us all that healing the pain, disconnection and hurt within community starts with a simple act – Blak love.  

We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the backbone of our communities. With Blak love at the core of how we do. And with an openness, curiosity and deep respect given to our Trans and Queer Sistergirls and all diverse women, there is no doubt that We Are the Change.  

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