Because of her, we can do it all: NAIDOC

This year, NAIDOC Week has focused on women.

The National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee will celebrate the legacy and projects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women for this year’s theme: ‘Because of her, we can!’ 

To mark NAIDOC Week, Google – which often commemorates famous people or dates on their homepage – shone a light on Shirley Coleen Smith, better known as Mum Shirl. 

Spending most of her life in Sydney, Mum Shirl was a social rights activist and humanitarian.

Living with epilepsy, she was known for giving her money and even her home to Aboriginal people in need of help.

In her time, she established the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service, and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Then there is Honorary Fellow and linguist at Charles Darwin University, Yalmay Yunupingu. A strong advocate for bilingual learning, Ms Yunupingu was the recipient of the 2013 Human Rights Medal. 

Or – Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, who was known for her role in the Australian film Jedda. It was the first movie to star two Aboriginal actors in the 1950s. 

After this she spent a decade as a nun in a Melbourne convent and later set up the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria.

And we can’t forget Vonda Malone, the first Aboriginal female mayor of the Torres Shire Council.

Playing a key role in the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Services (TCHHS), Islanders Industry Board of Service (IBIS) and Torres Strait Dementia Project, she also has the NAIDOC Award of Excellence under her belt. 

These women are just some of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have, along with their male counterparts, fought for their country, culture and people. 

Despite a lag in institutional or legal recognition, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across the country have realised their vision; a vision of equality and support; a vision that their voice was important, that their change was imminent instead of imaginary. 

‘Her’ is not always subject to record. These are the mothers, aunties and sisters helping their community; women who have done their part, small or big.

So this year the message is clear: Because of her, we have; because of her, we can.