Perth, Australia led the world’s events for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Aboriginal women and non-Aboriginal women allies gathered to demand justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls. Event organizer, Dr. Hannah McGlade is a proud Noongar woman, member of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, adviser to the Noongar Council for Family Safety and Wellbeing and to March4Justice.
“We came together as part of an international movement for #MMIWG. Aboriginal women and our allies and the families of missing and murdered women came together to demand action. We made protest banners, yarned and enjoyed bush-tucker and entertainment from Noongar artists,” declared Dr. McGlade.
Honoring the global Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement and the REDress campaign the venue was decorated with red dresses and the attendees wore red. In Australia in the past week, the prime minister delivered the annual Closing the Gap update in federal parliament, announcing $1 billion dollars in funding for health, education, justice and employment before 2031.
March4Justice Perth Team Leader and Spokesperson, Pam Haddon-Knox explains,
“While March4Justice welcomes recent announcements for funding Indigenous programs, we believe in listening to and centering Aboriginal voices and implementing the strategies that Aboriginal leaders request. First and foremost is the Uluru Statement from the Heart. There must be an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, that includes Indigenous women’s voices. Indigenous women’s voices have been suppressed for too long.
A ten year plan is too slow, we need action now. Aboriginal women are seeing their families destroyed in Australia today. The time for change is now. Not one more Aboriginal woman’s child jailed. Not one more Aboriginal death in custody. Not one more missing or murdered Aboriginal woman. This is not just an issue for Aboriginal women, it’s an issue for all women.”
2021 has seen some progress in the support of indigenous peoples, highlighting how Australia is so very far behind. Under the new Biden administration’s first 100 days, Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland announced the formation of the USA’s new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services to urgently drive work involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
“Around the world we are seeing recognition that missing and murdered indigenous people must have justice, and governments are taking action. Yet, in Australia, Aboriginal people, especially women, are given too little worth, and too little value. When our women and girls disappear, it is as though they never existed. There is no justice. Their lives simply are not valued,” says Dr McGlade.
Aboriginal Women in Western Australia
In Western Australia in 2021, the numbers of missing Aboriginal women continue to rise; 20 percent of missing persons cases in the region are Aboriginal people despite making up only three percent of the population. As mothers, Aboriginal women and girls are 17.5 times more likely to die from homicide than non-Aboriginal mothers. Aboriginal women have higher rates of death due to homicide and suicide than other women in Australia. Western Australia provides no sex disaggregation of this data, so women and girls are rendered invisible by the State – truly missing.
Dr. McGlade has been leading the calls for an inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and has created a petition to be presented to the West Australian Parliament. The petition has already collected more than 2,500 signatures.
About International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
Events are happening all over the world for the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. There are 476 million indigenous peoples living in 90 countries around the globe. Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, their way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years. Yet, throughout history, their rights have been violated.
Indigenous peoples today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.
In order to raise awareness of the needs of these population groups, every August 9 commemorates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, chosen in recognition of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations held in Geneva in 1982. The theme for 2021 is “Leaving no people behind. Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract.”
The new social contract must be based on genuine participation and partnership that fosters equal opportunities and respects the rights, dignity and freedoms of all. Indigenous peoples’ right to participate in decision-making is a key component in achieving reconciliation between indigenous peoples and States.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Uluru Statement From the Heart was created by indigenous people from around Australia on May 26, 2017. It describes the key challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. It proposes structural reform for a First Nations voice to parliament and a Makarrata Commission to supervise the process of agreement-making or treaties and truth-telling about their nation’s history:
“We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years? With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
For more information please visit: https://ulurustatement.org
March4Justice Inc is a nationwide Australian women’s movement, demanding justice and action against gendered violence. The movement is non party political, inclusive and respectful. March4Justice strives to partner with first nations, immigrant and refugee communities, LGBTQIA+, differently abled and participants of all ages. Visit march4justice.org.au or email [email protected] to learn more.
Latina Republic publishes this abridged media release in solidarity with Australia’s efforts to bring justice to the urgent cause of Aboriginal women and girls’ rights and justice in Australia. This International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples we stand in solidarity with Australia to demand justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls.
For the full report contact: [email protected]